Rights groups urge Georgia not to extradite ‘Gülen-connected’ school manager

6 June 2017
Emre Çabuk

Local rights organisations have urged Georgia’s government not to extradite Mustafa Emre Çabuk, a manager at the Private Demirel College, to Turkey. Çabuk was detained in Tbilisi on 24 May accused of ‘supporting a terrorist organisation’, on Turkey’s request. Tbilisi City Court has ordered Çabuk’s provisional detention for three months.

If handed over to Turkey, Çabuk faces the possibility of ‘political persecution, torture, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment, and will have no access to a fair trial’, according to a  joint statement signed by eight local civil rights organisations, including Transparency International — Georgia, the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, and the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre.

The maximum duration of pre-extradition detention in Georgia is 9 months. According to Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani, Turkey must provide the Georgian authorities with evidence against Çabuk during this period.

Çabuk’s detention was ordered by Turkey, which is sufficient basis to detain a person, Tsulukiani added.

Çabuk worked as a manager at the Demirel school, which is reportedly linked to Turkish opposition figure Fethullah Gülen. His detention coincided with an official visit  by Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım to Georgia.

‘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’, Çabuk’s wife, Tuba Çabuk, wrote on her Facebook profile.

According to the rights groups, the Georgian government has been ‘actively checking several educational institutions’, which the Turkish authorities consider to be associated with the Gülen Movement, such as Şahin and Demirel colleges and the International Black Sea University.

In February, the license of Şahin lyceum was revoked by Georgia’s Ministry of Education, after the Turkish Consul in Batumi claimed that the school ‘raises terrorists’. Turkish businessman Sinan Saraç was detained in Georgia earlier in May for ‘supporting [the Gülenist movement]’.

‘The detention of Mustafa Çabuk in this context has clearly pronounced political connotation and is indicative of the political loyalty of the Georgian authorities towards the Government of Turkey’, the statement said.

According to Çabuk’s lawyer, he is accused of ‘helping one of the shareholders 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’.

‘The documentation submitted by the Government of Turkey to the Georgian authorities ... does not contain a single specific indication of the reason as to why Demirel College, or a company registered in the USA, is a terrorist organisation, and why the authority of Mustafa Emre Çabuk to act as a fiduciary, can be viewed as membership in a terrorist organisation’, the statement from the rights groups read.

The rights groups warn that Çabuk’s extradition to Turkey would be a gross violation of human rights and fundamental standards of supremacy of the law, and will undermine the process of democratic development of the country.

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