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Ombudsman Says Closure of Demirel College in Tbilisi was Illegal

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, December 8
(TBILISI) – Georgia’s Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili announced that a decision by the Authorization Council of Educational Institutions to close the Demirel private college in Tbilisi was unlawful.

The college has experienced extensive pressure since the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey and saw the detention of its manager on terrorist charges and connections with Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric and political figure who fiercely opposes Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Gulen is accused of using his contacts and charities to overthrow Erdogan.

Nanuashvili says that the decision to revoke Demirel’s institutional accreditation was made without properly studying the case evidence.

“At the end of the last month Ombudsman requested to annul the decision, according to which, the Demirel Private College was refused authorization, and to make a new decision as a result of thorough examination of the circumstances of the case,” Nanuashvili stated.

The public defender claimed that the decision of the authorization council was mainly based on experts' instructions, whereas an assessment of the facts in the report was incorrectly judged from a legal point of view.

The council later ordered the college closed and more than 76 employees and 400 students removed from the premises.

Members of the college staff claim they were constantly pressured and summoned for questioning in late 2016 and early 2017.

“Some tried to connect our names with terrorists,” they told the local media outlets.

In May, the college director Emre Cabuk was arrested after being denied a refugee status in Georgia.

The closure of Demirel college was accompanied by a statement of the Consul of Turkey to Georgia, who said the school was owned by Gulen’s supporters.

Until now, more than 1,000 private schools have been closed by Erdogan for their alleged connections to Gulen.