Turkish Journalist Extradited from Ukraine in Covert Operation
21 July, 2018

A Turkish journalist accused of having ties to the organization blamed for the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey was arrested by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) at his residence in southern Ukraine on July 12. Journalist and blogger Yusuf Inan was then extradited to Turkey without his Ukrainian wife or lawyer being informed.

Yusuf Inan after he was deported to Turkey, on July 16. Photo credit: Anadolu Agency

Inan’s arrest follows the abduction of another Turkish citizen in Ukraine. Entrepreneur Salih Zeki Yigit was captured in Odesa on July 11 and flown to his native country. Members of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) were likely responsible, according to Ukraine-based Turkish journalist Yunus Erdogdu.

Both Inan and Yigit are accused of having ties to U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen and his organization FETO, which Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for the attempted coup.

“In October 2017 Turkey’s Ministry of Justice appealed to the Prosecutor General [of Ukraine] with the request to extradite one of their citizens [Yusuf Inan],” Spokesperson of the Prosecutor General's Office Andriy Lysenko told Hromadske several days after Inan’s extradition. He confirmed that in July 2018, Ukraine complied with the extradition request.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) criticized the Ukrainian authorities for extraditing the Turkish journalist, as reported by Agence France-Presse on July 19.

"I ask the Ukrainian authorities to clarify whether his freedom of expression and right to appeal were taken into consideration," said OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir.

What was Inan doing in Ukraine?

The 51-year-old journalist was a legal resident of Ukraine. He married a Ukrainian woman, Kateryna, in 2015. At the time of his arrest, he was living with her and their two children in the countryside outside Mykolaiv, where they kept livestock and sheep.

The couple also ran a charitable foundation.

Inan contributed to the Turkish website The Turkish news site frequently quotes the Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik, as well as the Turkish left-leaning newspaper Cumhuriyet.

How was Inan arrested?

Inan was arrested by police officers. His wife, Kateryna, described how her husband was out grazing sheep, when he called her for help.

Inan with his wife Kateryna. Photo credit: courtesy

“I saw a crowd in the field, my daughter went running, and two men grabbed him. They hit him,” she told Hromadske.

According to Kateryna, the police officers did not show their documents or introduce themselves. Later on, SBU officers arrived. She says they beat up Inan and detained Kateryna.  

Inan was detained and a court hearing was held that very day. However, he should have been held for 60 days.

The journalist was accused of participation in the socio-political movement FETO led by Fethullah Gulen, although there is no direct evidence of Inan’s collaboration with Gulen.

According to Kateryna, the charges put forth against Inan in his native Turkish city Izmir are not justified. She denies the fact that he ever supported Gulen’s movement.

“He has been working as a journalist for 18 years. During the coup, he simply covered the events, just like other journalists,” she said.

How was Inan extradited?

During the court hearing in Mykolaiv, it appeared that Inan’s Ukrainian residence permit had been canceled earlier, making him eligible for deportation. His family should have been informed, but his wife said they never received official notice.

In court Inan requested political asylum and was granted five days by the judge for recourse. Yet he was extradited to Turkey on the night of July 15, before the process could be completed. He was taken to Izmir, where he had been living before.

“The prosecution told us that the order came from above,” said Inan’s wife. “We don’t even know how he was transported.” She suggested he may have been taken on a private Turkish jet.

Kateryna, who has decided to stay in Ukraine and wait for her husband’s return, said that they plan to file an appeal. “However, no lawyer in Turkey wants to take the case – they are afraid of Erdogan.”

Turkish journalist Erdogu says that Turkish prisons are overcrowded, sometimes there is no place to sleep. He also suggested that Inan could be tortured.

What role did the Ukrainian authorities play?

At first, the SBU would not confirm Inan’s detention and extradition. Meanwhile, the Mykolaiv region police press office told Hromadske that Inan was detained by order of the Kyiv SBU office.

The Ministry of Justice of Ukraine did not receive any requests for Inan’s extradition.

Inan (L) at the launch of his charity foundation on December 1, 2016. Photo credit: courtesy

The State Border Service also had no information on the Turkish citizen’s extradition from Ukraine. Nor could spokesperson Oleg Slobodyan tell Hromadske whether or not a private jet from Turkey had crossed the state border.

The Head of the National Journalists’ Union, Serhiy Tomilenko, told Hromadske that the Union will send a request to the SBU demanding clarification of the circumstances of the journalist’s deportation. Both the Ukrainian journalists’ union and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media have questioned whether the Ukrainian authorities upheld Inan’s right to prove his case.

Since the attempt to overthrow the Turkish government in July 2016, Turkey’s MIT has been seeking out alleged members of Gulen’s organization as well as members of the Turkish opposition who live abroad. Last week they also returned a Turkish national suspected of involvement in FETO from Azerbaijan.