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News 23 Nov 16

Croatia Media Claim Turkish Attaches Sought Asylum

Media reports claim two former Turkish military attaches applied for a political asylum in Croatia following the failed coup there in July - amid continuing speculation about why the former ambassador was withdrawn.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Turkish ministry of foreign affairs. Photo: Facebook/Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Following controversy and confusion in the media over why Turkey's ambassador to Croatia, Ahmet Tuta, was withdrawn in August, a newspaper has claimed two former Turkish military attaches have applied for asylum in Croatia and are still in the country.

On Wednesday, the daily Vecernji list reported, citing sources from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, that two former Turkish military attaches present in Croatia for a NATO military exercise in July applied for political asylum in Croatia, after refusing to return to Turkey, fearing arrest.

Croatia's Interior Ministry did not respond to BIRN’s inquiries about the two attaches.

Vecernji list also reported that Tuta was removed for not publicly stating that as a student he once attended a school run by the exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who authorities in Ankara blame for fomenting the failed coup in July.

On Tuesday, the weekly paper Nacional first reported that Ambassador Tuta and his wife Mina were withdrawn for issues connected to the failed coup.

Mina Tuta also headed the Yunus Emre Institut in Zagreb. Opened by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his visit to Zagreb in April, it promotes Turkish language, history, culture, art and the country.

Turkish embassy in Zagreb has confirmed to BIRN that ambassador Tuta ended his mandate regularly, while the Croatian Foreign Ministry said it was informed he would be leaving in August.

Croatian MP Goran Beus Richembergh, president of the Croatian-Turkish Friendship Association, told BIRN that Tuta was withdrawn before the end of his mandate.

Richemberg explained that the Tuta couple decided together that Mina should leave her post in the Institute, so the family would not be split up after the ambassador was told on August 15 to return to Turkey by the end of the month.

He said the couple continued performed their duties before leaving on August 27.

“I visited the Tutas on the evening of August 26 in the ambassador’s residence to say goodbye because the next day they had a flight back to Turkey. After that, I had no contact with them,” he concluded.

The Turkish authorities have repeatedly blamed Gulen, who lives in the US, for masterminding the failed coup in July, an accusation he denies.

Since July, the authorities have reportedly arrested 36,000 people, and more than 110,000 people have been sacked from jobs in the military, the civil service, the judiciary, education and the media.

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