16th Apr 2024

Sweden risks wrath of Erdoğan over extradition snub

  • Bülent Keneş fled to Sweden after briefly spending time in prison in Turkey
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"Now, Erdoğan got the answer to his blackmail and I am happy for that," exiled Turkish journalist Bülent Keneş has said after a Swedish judge snubbed Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's personal extradition demand.

"This is huge not only for me, but also for Sweden itself," Keneş added, given that Erdoğan has threatened to block Sweden's Nato accession if it did not fall into line.

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  • Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson (l) with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara (Photo: tccb.gov.tr)

"I am happy to see that Sweden is insisting on keeping its democratic and rule-of-law credentials even before the blackmail of an Islamofascist despot during its historical Nato membership process," Keneş told EUobserver on Monday (19 December).

"Actually, this is not an unexpected decision for me. I have always kept my trust in [the] Swedish system of rule of law," he also said.

The Swedish foreign ministry told this website: "We cannot speculate about a possible impact [of the court ruling] on our Nato accession".

But there was no way the government would ignore its own judges to please Erdoğan, it made clear.

"If the Supreme Court considers that an impediment to extradition exists in an individual case, the government must reject an extradition request," it said.

"The Swedish government must comply with Swedish and international law in extradition matters, which is also made clear in the trilateral agreement," Sweden said, referring to a three-way accord on Nato enlargement with Finland and Turkey.

Turkey has demanded Sweden extradite 33 Kurdish separatists and people linked to "FETÖ" — Ankara's name for followers of Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Muslim leader, whom Erdoğan blames for organising a failed coup in 2016.

Sweden has so far extradited two.

Erdoğan had piled on personal pressure when he met Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson in Ankara on 5 December.

"It is crucial that Sweden extradites terrorists sought by Turkey, including senior FETÖ figure Bülent Keneş," Erdoğan had said.

"It is important that this terrorist [Keneş] be deported to Turkey," he said.

But the Swedish Supreme Court judge, Petter Asp, didn't care about the Turkish strongman's loss of face.

The things Keneş stood accused of weren't even criminal offences in Sweden, Asp said in his statement on Monday.

And the chauvinism of the Turkish government showed Keneş wouldn't get a fair trial, he added.

There were "obstacles to extradition because it is a matter of so-called political crimes, i.e. crimes that are directed against the state and that are political in nature," Asp said.

"There is also a risk of persecution based on this person's political beliefs. An extradition can therefore not take place," Asp added.

All Nato states, apart from Turkey and Hungary, have ratified Sweden and Finland's joint bid, ending decades of neutrality in response to Russia's war on Ukraine.

The Hungarian government has blamed procedural delays in parliament, but the Hungarian opposition has accused it of trying to please Turkey and Russia by dragging its heels.

The 55-year old Keneş used to be editor-in-chief of Turkish newspaper Zaman before Erdoğan seized control of the publication.

"Erdoğan is a man with deep grudges. He personally knows and hates me (the feeling is mutual)," Keneş previously told EUobserver.

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