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Turkish college manager detained over alleged links to terrorism

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, May 29
Tbilisi City Court sentenced Turkish citizen Mustafa Emre Cabuk, one of the managers of the Demirel College, to three-month pre-extradition detention over alleged links to a terrorist organization.

The court made the decision on May 25, a day after the official visit of the Turkish Prime Minister and Cabinet members to Georgia.

Cabuk's lawyer, Soso Baratashvili, says his client is not guilty, and he is also accused of having links to the FETO organization, which is registered in the United States and associated with Fethullah Gulen; the latter is accused of orchestrating a military coup attempt in Turkey on 15 July 2016, and FETO is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey.

The lawyer says Mustafa Cabuk was detained on the basis of the request of the Turkish authorities.

“My client helped one of the founders of the Demirel College to sell his shares to a company registered in the US. However, this share has not been fully sold. The representatives of this company are not suspected of cooperating with a terrorist organization, and it is unclear why Cabuk’s action was considered as cooperation with a terrorist organization," the lawyer explained.

The defense demanded a $10,000 dollar bail. However, their request was not met by the court. The lawyer says they will appeal the decision.

“My dignity was most of all violated by blaming me for having membership of a terrorist organization,” the accused stated at the trial, denying all charges.

He asked the judge not to extradite him to Turkey, saying justice does not exist there.

“I have been in Georgia for 15 years and I have a lifelong right of residence here which has been granted by the state,” Cabuk said.

The prosecutor said at the trial that the detained is accused of being a member of an armed terrorist organization, which is a serious crime and is 'characterized by continuity'.

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Turkey to Georgia, Zeki Levent Gumrukcu, did not make any specific comments over the issue, saying he is a diplomat and makes statements only on political issues.

“This issue should be decided by law enforcers and the court. I cannot comment on it,” the ambassador said.

Georgian Education Minister and Vice-Premier Aleksandre Jejelava said that the detention of the college manager would not hamper the education process at the Demirel College, which has been functioning in Tbilisi since 1993.

He says there was no request from the Turkish side to stop the functioning of the college.

“We have assured our Turkish colleagues that we will do everything in the future to prevent the college students from any kind ideological pressure,” Jejelava stressed.

Public Defender of Georgia Ucha Nanuashvili says it is very important not to make a decision regarding the extradition of Mustafa Cabuk.

"We met the defendant and his lawyers on the very first day and received some materials from them. It is very important not to make a decision about his extradition until every detail is clear. We will observe the case closely," he said.