Romanian court rules to extradite Gülenist fugitives

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 22.03.2015 00:00
Updated 23.03.2015 01:11

A court in Romania decided to approve the extradition of two fugitive police officers accused of spying on behalf of the controversial Gülen Movement. Lawyers for the two suspects immediately filed appeals against the decision

A Romanian court has handed down its ruling regarding two Gülen Movement-affiliated police officers, who have been at large since arrest warrants were issued against them on charges of political spying, during the second hearing of the case, which took place on Friday. The court ruled to extradite the suspects who fled abroad to avoid any charges they could face in Turkish courts after their alleged illegal activities were unveiled. There have been many charges targeting members of the Gülen Movement since their alleged attempt to oust the government became public with the purported operations they carried out on Dec. 17 and Dec. 25. They have been accused of trying to topple the elected government by exploiting their authority in key government institutions such as the judiciary, Presidency of Telecommunications and the police, which they had infiltrated concealing their loyalty to the movement.

The two suspects, Sedat Zavar and İlker Usta, who fled to Romania to avoid the charges, were accused of being involved in the wiretapping of then prime minister and current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's office by placing bugs. An operation was carried out against those who were allegedly engaged in the offense, but Zavar and Usta could not be reached as they fled. Although they were on the run, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in February that the two suspects had been detained in Romania and pointed out that the two countries have an extradition agreement.

Since that date, the two suspects had tried to avoid extradition, after which they knew they would stand trial in a Turkish court at a hearing scheduled for May 4 in Ankara, and applied for asylum, a request that was declined by a local court in Romania.

After Turkey sent an investigation file prepared by a prosecutors' office to Romania, the two alleged Gülen Movement-linked suspects stood trial in a Romanian court for a second time on Friday. Meanwhile, the lawyers of the police officers, who are still imprisoned in Romania, have appealed to a superior court for a reversal of the ruling that was delivered at Friday's hearing. The final decision by the upper court will reportedly be made in 20 days.

The suspects are accused of eavesdropping on top officials and of disclosing information of a highly sensitive nature as well as "forming an organization to commit a crime and being a member of this organization," "violating privacy," "illegally seizing personal information" and "forging official documents." Prosecutors are seeking 21 years to 36 years in prison for the suspects.

Erdoğan revealed in late 2012 that a listening device had been found in his office and charges of political spying were brought against 13 suspects.
Former Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey Vice President Hasan Palaz was among those charged as well as police officers Ali Özdoğan, Serhat Demir, Sedat Zavar, Ahmet Turer, Enes Çiğci, İlker Usta, Hurşit Gölbaşı, Seyit Saydam, İbrahim Sari, Mehmet Yüksel, Zeki Bulut and Harun Yavuz. Özdoğan, Zavar, Turer, Çiğci and Usta were charged with political espionage, violating private life and recording speeches.

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