ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s president slammed Kosovo’s prime minister on Saturday for criticizing the secret deportations of six Turkish men who Turkey claims were supporters of an alleged coup plotter.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was “saddened” that Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj had dismissed both his interior minister and his intelligence chief on Friday for deporting six Turkish citizens from Kosovo without his permission.
The deportations have been criticized by rights groups in Kosovo and abroad.
Saying Haradinaj would “pay” for this, Erdogan asked Saturday “since when have you begun to protect those who work to stage a coup against the Turkish Republic?”
Turkey accuses U.S-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for masterminding the 2016 failed coup. He denies the accusations. Those deported from Kosovo worked in schools and clinics supported by Gulen’s movement.
Turkey declared a state of emergency after the July 2016 coup attempt that is still in place. More than 38,000 people accused of links to Gulen remain behind bars and some 110,000 public servants have been sacked from their jobs. Many proclaim no knowledge of the attempted coup.
Five Turkish teachers and a Turkish doctor were deported from Kosovo for alleged links to Gulen in a joint operation by the intelligence services of Kosovo and Turkey.
Family members have contacted the men by phone at a high security prison in Istanbul, according to Kosovo media.
Haradinaj on Saturday convened the Kosovo Security Council, asking institutions to make “a detailed” investigation into the secret operation.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, or AKI, reported that “the only reason why these Turkish citizens were deported is related to their illegal actions in Kosovo which, as AKI says, have endangered Kosovo’s national security.”
Llazar Semini contributed from Tirana, Albania.