Sweden faces ‘litmus test’ over Erdoğan demands, says journalist wanted by Turkey

Sweden’s democracy faces a litmus test over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s demands, which include the extradition of 21 people he says are affiliated with banned groups, a veteran Turkish journalist living in exile has told Bünyamin. who is among those wanted by Ankara. Turkish Minute Tekin Wednesday.

Turkey’s justice minister said on Wednesday his ministry would seek the extradition of 33 political dissidents from Sweden and Finland as part of a deal to win Ankara’s support for Nordic countries’ bids to join the EU. NATO.

Erdoğan dropped weeks of resistance to the two countries’ demands for NATO membership after securing a 10-point agreement under which the two countries pledged to join Turkey’s fight against banned Kurdish activists and dissidents affiliated with the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government calls the faith-based Gülen movement a terrorist organization and accuses it of staging a failed coup in July 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the attempted coup or any terrorist activity.

As part of the deal, Stockholm and Helsinki confirmed that they considered the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to be a terrorist organization and agreed that they would “not provide support” to its allies in Syria, People’s Protection Units/Democratic Union Party (YPG/PYD) .

They also agreed to consider Turkey’s extradition requests “promptly and thoroughly” and to take into account “information, evidence and intelligence provided by Turkey”.

The list, which has not been officially made public, includes the names of prominent Turkish publisher, writer and freedom of expression activist Ragıp Zarakolu, journalists Bülent Keneş and Levent Kenez and writer Harun Tokak , among others, according to a report by the pro-government newspaper Hürriyet Daily earlier this week.

According to Keneş, who fled prosecution and has lived in Sweden for six years, the memorandum appears to have been dictated by Erdoğan rather than a compromise reached between the nations.

After serving as editor of Today’s Zaman, an English-language daily, Keneş rocketed to the top of Ankara’s wanted list thanks to his vocal criticism of Erdoğan’s government.

“Exploiting a bad run, Erdoğan succeeded, at least on paper,” Keneş said. He added that although the wording of the text offers some leeway to the Nordic countries, the transactional nature of relations with Erdoğan could lead Sweden to commit acts contrary to its democratic tradition.

“The negotiation is not over yet. Erdoğan will want to see concrete steps in line with the agreement since the [Sweden and Finland’s] the offers will come before the Turkish parliament,” Keneş said, adding that this will show how committed Sweden is to preserving its values.

The parliaments of NATO’s 30 members, including Turkey, must ratify the membership applications of Finland and Sweden before they can become full members.

“Erdoğan’s demands will act as a litmus test for Swedish democracy,” Keneş said.

“If Sweden obeys Erdoğan’s orders, it will only be a betrayal of itself,” the veteran journalist said.

Others see the deal in a different light.

Kenez, another Turkish journalist on Turkey’s extradition list about whom Sweden’s Supreme Court already rejected a request from Turkey in December 2021, says the deal is diplomatically drafted and very unlikely to result in extraditions.

“Erdoğan continues to promote this as a victory. If we test this based on Erdoğan’s previous statements demanding concrete steps to lift his veto, we don’t see any concrete steps, but Turkey lifted his veto,” said Kenez at Turkish Minute.

Symbolic measures will be taken to limit the presence of PKK symbols or acts that may provoke Turkey, such as high-level visits by YPG members, Kenez said, adding that he nevertheless believed that Ankara’s expectations on extradition would not be realized.

Pointing out that Sweden will hold elections in September, Kenez said the issue would be used by both the ruling coalition and the opposition as an achievement guaranteeing NATO membership and a concession to a despotic ruler, respectively.

In its extradition request, Turkey indicated that Kenez, now editor-in-chief of Nordic Monitor, is suspected of belonging to an armed terrorist organization, citing Articles 53 and 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code and Articles 3 and 5/1 of the Anti-terrorism Act. Hundreds of journalists have been imprisoned in Turkey since 2016 for the abuse of these criminal provisions.

The Turkish government has intensified its crackdown on critical media and journalists following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, following which dozens of journalists were imprisoned and more than 200 media outlets were arrested. closed under the pretext of a fight against the coup. .

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