Member of the European Parliament Rebecca Harms has expressed concerns about attempts to extradite Mustafa Emre Çabuk, a former manager at Tbilisi’s Private Demirel College who is being sought by Turkey on terror charges.
After visiting Çabuk in prison on 15 February in Tbilisi, Rebecca Harms told journalists she does not believe in any of the charges against him, and expressed hope he will not be extradited to Turkey.
‘If extradited to Turkey, I think he will be immediately imprisoned and will be deprived of a fair trial. People who are considered Gülen followers are deprived of a fair trial in Turkey. If Çabuk is extradited, the rule of law and human rights will be violated’, Harms said.
She said that Çabuk should not be sacrificed for good relations between Georgia and Turkey.
‘Georgia, a country which is in the process of democratisation, should not harm its reputation by extraditing Çabuk to Turkey’, she said.
The Tbilisi Court of Appeals upheld the decision on 26 January to deny him asylum, despite a number of rights groups having urged the government not to extradite him, where they say he would face torture and would not receive a fair trial.
Extradition proceedings resumed in Tbilisi City Court on 6 February, and are set to continue on 19 February.
Çabuk’s lawyer has vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court if the court orders the extradition to go ahead, and to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, who could put the extradition on hold.
If the Supreme Court upholds his extradition, it is up to Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani to make a final decision on whether or not he will be extradited.
[Read more about Çabuk’s case on OC Media: Tbilisi Court upholds asylum refusal of ‘Gülen school manager’ Çabuk]
Çabuk was detained in Tbilisi on 24 May accused by Turkey of ‘supporting a terrorist organisation’. Tbilisi City Court ordered his provisional detention, and he remains in custody.
According to Çabuk’s lawyer, he is accused of ‘helping one of the shareholders [of Demirel College] to sell his shares to US-registered company Metropolitan Education and Consultation Services’. This American company is not considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey’s government, according to the lawyer. ‘I didn’t know that selling shares was terrorism’, his lawyer continued.
Çabuk, who has been living in Georgia since 2002, may now face extradition to Turkey. The maximum legal duration of pre-extradition detention in Georgia is 9 months.
In June, a number of local rights groups urged Georgia’s government not to extradite Çabuk, claiming if handed over to Turkey, he faced the possibility of ‘political persecution, torture, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment, and will have no access to a fair trial’. The joint statement was signed by eight local rights groups including Transparency International — Georgia, the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, and the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre.
Georgia’s crackdown on ‘Gülen schools’
In August, Georgia’s Ministry of Education revoked the teaching authorisation of the Private Demirel College, effectively shutting the school down. They accused the school of a number of irregularities surrounding examinations and enrollment.
Turkey has made efforts to shut down a number of schools associated with Fethullah Gülen, globally. Gülen is a former Islamic Cleric and a former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is accused by Turkey of plotting the July 2016 coup. The ‘Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO)’ is how Turkish authorities have named the movement, ‘FETO’ is considered a terrorist group only by Turkey. Demirel has denied any connection to Gülen or his organisation.
Şahin lyceum School in Batumi had its license revoked by Georgia’s Ministry of Education in early 2017 after the Turkish Consul in Batumi claimed the school ‘raises terrorists’.
The private International Black Sea University in Tbilisi is also reportedly associated with the Gülen movement.