Sweden’s high courtroom blocks extradition of journalist sought by Turkey

Gettyimages 1245728568

In a move that will impede Turkey’s ratification of NATO’s Nordic enlargement, on Monday Sweden’s Supreme Court blocked the extradition of a journalist whose return was requested by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Bulent Kenes, the previous editor-in-chief of Today’s Zaman, was explicitly talked about by Erdogan when he met with Sweden’s newish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Ankara final month. “The extradition of this person is very important for us,” Erdogan advised Kristersson. 

Ankara’s calls for for the extradition of dozens of individuals over their alleged ties with what it considers terror teams stay one of many thorniest points within the talks between Turkey and the 2 Nordic international locations which have shed their neutrality to affix NATO. Turkey’s broad definition of terrorism, additionally a recurrent drawback in Turkey’s talks with the European Union, differs extensively from theirs. 

The distinction was as soon as once more evident within the high Swedish courtroom’s ruling on Kenes. The courtroom maintained that a few of the accusations in opposition to the journalist are usually not crimes in Sweden. It additionally opined that the political nature of the case, Kenes’ refugee standing and the chance of persecution based mostly on his political opinions made it unattainable for the federal government to extradite Kenes to Turkey beneath Sweden’s authorized system. 

Turkey accuses Kenes of being concerned within the unsuccessful 2016 putsch that Ankara says was organized by what it calls the Fetullah Gulen Terror Organization (FETO), by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Today’s Zaman, the English-language sister publication of mass-circulation Zaman, was thought-about Gulen’s mouthpiece. As Erdogan’s authorities and Gulenists locked horns in mid-2015, Zaman, which ran articles on authorities corruption, was first positioned beneath a state administrator and then shut down with an govt decree by Erdogan a couple of days after the coup. Arrest warrants had been issued for 47 former employees members. Kenes sought asylum in Stockholm, the place he based a suppose tank with different exiles. 

Kenes stated he was proud of the choice however expressed concern that Ankara would discover a strategy to make his life harder. In a defiant column for Euobserver final month, Kenes referred to as on European international locations to face in opposition to what he referred to as Erdogan’s blackmail. “The West can outplay Erdogan, if leaders stand firm and act in solidarity,” he wrote.

The pro-government media in Turkey instantly attacked the Swedish courtroom’s resolution. “Scandalous decision from Sweden — Is that how they plan to join NATO?” tweeted Sabah, whereas the TGRT information chain ran the headline, “Sweden, which promised to fight against terrorism, refuses to return Gulenist.” 

Turkish media retailers additionally aired photographs of an unauthorized demonstration Friday by sympathizers of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which is on the terrorist listing of the EU and the United States, and the PKK’s Syrian arm, the People’s Defense Units (YPG). Chanting anti-Turkish slogans, the demonstrators signaled that they had been getting ready for a large-scale demonstration on Jan. 21 on the nation’s capital. 

There was no official response by Ankara on the time of the article, however the two strikes could trigger Ankara to tug its toes much more in ratifying the membership of Sweden and Finland to NATO and strengthen Turkish diplomats’ arguments that the 2 international locations promise rather a lot and ship little.

Despite pronounced optimism from Washington and NATO headquarters in Brussels, Turkey and Hungary haven’t but ratified the accord, although Budapest stated earlier this yr that it will achieve this in early 2023.

Ankara nonetheless maintains that the 2 international locations should “do more” to implement a trilateral memorandum signed in June through the alliance’s Madrid summit. But six months after the eleventh-hour deal, Turkey argues that each Nordic capitals ought to fulfill their guarantees to deal with Ankara’s safety issues and to raise their de facto arms embargo in opposition to Ankara.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who got here collectively along with his Nordic counterparts through the NATO summit in Bucharest final month, stated the talks had been “progressing positively,” however the international locations “haven’t taken some concrete steps yet” concerning extraditions and authorized rules

Turkey expects Sweden to tighten its grip on the PKK, YPG and FETO each with strengthened legal guidelines and on the bottom.  Ankara additionally requests the extradition of militants from a variety of teams, together with the PKK and FETO, in an ever-growing listing, in response to pro-government media retailers. 

Stockholm has repeatedly harassed that its judiciary is impartial and has the ultimate say in extraditions, however the brand new liberal authorities promised to tighten legal guidelines on combating terrorism and controlling the group’s monetary sources. 

In early December, Sweden extradited Mahmut Tat, a convicted PKK member who had fled to Sweden in 2015 however had his asylum request denied. Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag described the move as a “good start” however maintained that Turkey anticipated extra. 

The high concern with Finland, which doesn’t have a large Kurdish neighborhood, is protection cooperation. Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen, who got here to Ankara in early December, advised journalists that there was no arms embargo on Turkey and that Helsinki assessed arms export requests on a case-by-case foundation. But his remarks in Helsinki per week later appeared to point that his authorities could give an “preliminary inexperienced gentle” to latest Turkish requests to export navy materials regardless of a de facto ban in place since October 2019.

Speaking to a Finnish TV breakfast program final Monday, Kaikkonen stated he couldn’t disclose any additional particulars in regards to the preliminary requests to Finnish firms resulting from business confidentiality. However, he stated, “If the companies submit their final license applications, they will be processed and the matter will be resolved.” On Sunday, the Finnish information company quoted Defense Ministry senior adviser Riikka Pitkanen as saying that it was “possible” that the Finnish authorities will take care of these functions earlier than subsequent yr’s parliamentary elections scheduled for April.