Almost two years have passed since seven Turkish citizens working at a high school were extradited from Moldova. Since then, their case was brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and Moldova was forced to pay 125,000 euros in damages for rights violations. But recently, the ECtHR received a statement, signed by two of the Turkish citizens. The statement mentioned that the two applicants withdrew their claims in return for 25,000 euros non-pecuniary damages. Subsequently, the non-pecuniary damages paid by the state, in the case of the seven Turkish citizens, reached 175,000 euros.
At the end of June this year, the Government’s Representatives declared for Ziarul de Gardă that five of the seven expelled Turkish citizens received 25,000 euros each. The state paid 175,000 euros non-pecuniary damages for all seven Turkish teachers.
“In the case of Ozdil and Others v. the Republic of Moldova, the ECtHR held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life). The Court found in particular that arresting the applicants and extraditing them to Turkey had amounted to an extra-legal transfer from the territory of the respondent State to Turkey which had circumvented all the guarantees offered to the applicants by domestic and international law,” the communiqué states.
On September 5, 2018, Olga Poalelungi, the director of the Bureau for Migration and Asylum signed decisions declaring the seven Orizont high school employees and Turgay Șen “undesirable” on Moldova’s territory.
The seven Orizont employees were escorted by the Secret and Intelligence Services to the Airport, and they were taken from there to a former military airport in Turkey on a plane chartered by Air Moldova.
Back then the Security and Intelligence Service stated that the seven Turkish citizens are linked to an Islamist group. According to the institution, the Islamist group was carrying out illegal actions in several countries.
On August 2, the General Prosecutor’s Office announced that it had opened a criminal case for abuse of power and overstepping authority committed by the employees of the Bureau for Migration and Asylum and the Security and Intelligence Service.
On September 6, 2019, the General Prosecutor’s Office announced the detention of the former deputy director of Security and Intelligence Service, Alexandru Baltaga, as well as criminal charges against Olga Poalelungi, the then- chief of Bureau for Migration and Asylum.
On September 9, Baltaga Alexandru was placed under house arrest for 30 days and Poalelungi was suspended from the position of Minister for Migration and Asylum.
During the criminal investigation, the prosecutors established that the Security and Intelligence Service enforced arbitrarily the procedure on the extradition of the seven Turkish teachers, without informing the Bureau for Migration and Asylum on the measures applied for the teachers’ extradition.
According to the prosecutors, the entire operation was ordered, coordinated and managed exclusively by Vasile Botnari, former director of the Security and Intelligence Service and his deputies have executed his orders and commands, not being aware that they are illegal, being assured that everything that is carried out is perfectly legal. Back then, the Prosecutor General mentioned that At the stage of criminal prosecution, the accused has collaborated during the inquiry and is being under non-custodial investigation.
For this crime, the criminal law foresees up to six years of imprisonment, being deprived of the right to hold certain public office positions or to exercise specific activities for a period of five to ten years.
In May 2017, during an official visit to Moldova, the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim asked Moldova’s then Prime Minister Pavel Filip to close the Orizont high school. According to the Turkish Prime Minister, this school (one of the top schools in Moldova) was part of a terrorist group led by Fethullah Gülen – a cleric who has been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, as a result of his strained relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.