A manager at the Private Demirel College, a school linked to Turkish opposition political figure Fethullah Gülen, has been detained in Tbilisi. Mustafa Emre Çabuk was detained on 24 May for ‘supporting a terrorist organisation’ allegedly upon Turkey’s request.
Tbilisi City Court ordered the provisional detention of Çabuk for three months on 25 May.
‘I have never been convicted in Georgia or in Turkey. I have never worn even a knife and they are accusing me of being a member of terrorist organisation’, Çabuk said after the court ruling, urging the Georgian authorities not to extradite him to Turkey.
‘The police, who came to detain my spouse in the early morning, informed us that it was not due to legal problems in Georgia but at the request of Turkey’, Çabuk’s wife, Tuba Çabuk, wrote on her Facebook profile.
‘I am really curious to discover the political negotiations behind the detention of my spouse, as it happened after the Turkish PM’s visit to Georgia’, she added.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili met with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim in Tbilisi on 23 May, a day before Çabuk was detained. The official subject of the meeting was discussing ‘further deepening the two countries' friendly relations and the key directions of strategic partnership’.
Georgia’s Minister of Education Aleksandre Jejelava said that there has been no specific demand from Turkey to detain Çabuk, but added that they are ‘doing their best to defend students from ideological pressure’.
‘I do not think that the detention of this person will cause any problems for Demirel College, and secondly, the school is of the utmost importance for the Georgian educational system, as are the other 3,000 schools [in Georgia]’, Jejelava added.
Crackdown on Gülen institutions in Georgia
Çabuk, a citizen of Turkey currently residing in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, is not the first to be detained allegedly for being connected to Fethullah Gülen. Turkish businessman Sinan Saraç was detained in Georgia earlier in May for ‘supporting FETO’.
‘Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO)’ is how Turkish authorities have named the movement lead by the former Islamic Cleric and former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. ‘FETO’ is considered a terrorist organisation only by Turkey.
Another school, Şahin lyceum in Batumi, had its license revoked by Georgia’s Ministry of Education In early 2017, after the Turkish Consul in Batumi claimed that the school ‘raises terrorists’.
The private International Black Sea University in Tbilisi is also reportedly associated with the Gülen movement.