Days after a coalition party announced it would step down from government, the Kosovan PM’s hold on power has been plunged further into doubt after he claimed he did not know state intelligence arrested six men wanted by Turkey.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister has had a bad few weeks by anyone’s standards: On March 21, opposition lawmakers set off tear gas canisters in Parliament to hamper the ratification of a border agreement. Less than a week later, a senior Serbian official was arrested in Kosovo and deported, prompting a coalition party to quit in protest. Now, PM Ramush Haradinaj claims state intelligence had aided in the arrest and deportation of six men wanted by Turkey without his knowledge.
Blamed by Ankara for playing a role in the failed coup in 2016, six Turkish nationals had been arrested in Kosovo and extradited to Turkey on Thursday (March 29), according to state news agency Anadolu.
Turkish authorities say the men had links to schools funded by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who President Recep Erdogan claims was behind the attempt to oust him. Gulen, who lives in the US, has denied involvement.
Anadolu reported that the accused allegedly recruited people in Gulen's network and facilitated their escape from Turkey amid a nationwide security crackdown where tens of thousands were sacked from their jobs or jailed due to alleged Gulen ties.
The Kosovo Interior Ministry said the Turks' residence permits had been revoked after their arrest for "security reasons", but did not explain why.
Claiming no knowledge of the incident, Haradinaj said in a message posted on Twitter: “Today, in the operation conducted by #Kosovo Intelligence Agency, 6 Turk citizens have been deported. Myself, as the Prime Minister, was not informed about this operation, therefore I will act according to my legal and constitutional competencies.”
It comes two days after the Kosovan-Serb coalition party Srpska Lista announced it would quit government next month following the arrest and deportation of a senior Serbian official from Kosovo.
Marko Djuric, the director of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, was apprehended by police on Monday amid accusations he entered the country illegally.
His detention deepened divisions between the former Yugoslavian countries and threatened to halt EU-sponsored talks intended to normalise relations.
After just six months in the job following national elections in June, Haradinaj has a big task ahead of him if Srpska Lista follows through on its promise to step down on April 20. With nine seats to their name, Haradinaj will lose his slim majority (63 out of 120 seats) in government, plunging the country into a political crisis that could result in a new government or second round of national elections if coalition talks fail.