Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has turned the thumbscrews on Sweden by personally naming who he wants Swedish judges to extradite in return for Nato membership.
“It is crucial that Sweden extradites terrorists sought by Türkiye, including senior FETÖ figure Bülent Keneş,” Erdoğan said in Ankara on Tuesday (8 November), after meeting Sweden’s new prime minister for the first time.
Keneş is an exiled Turkish editor, who used to run the Zaman newspaper, and who was once jailed for tweets deemed insulting to Erdoğan.
FETÖ is Turkey’s name for followers of Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Muslim leader, whom Erdoğan blames for a failed coup back in 2016.
Tuesday’s summit in Ankara was meant to help unlock Nato’s Nordic expansion.
Sweden and Finland applied to join in May to protect themselves from Russian aggression, but they are still waiting for Turkey and Hungary to ratify accession.
Turkey had previously demanded Sweden extradite 73 terrorist suspects, mostly from Kurdish separatist groups, such as the PKK and YPG.
“PKK/PYD/YPG, FETÖ, and DHKP-C terrorist organisations must be prevented from exploiting Sweden’s democratic environment,” Erdoğan also said on Tuesday.
Sweden has so far extradited just one Turkish national, on 31 August, according to a Swedish letter to Turkey leaked to the Reuters news agency last month.
“Sweden is committed to address … pending extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly,” in accordance with Swedish and EU law, the letter added.
Erdoğan is used to getting what he wants from judges in Turkey, who jailed thousands of his opponents since the failed coup.
But his naming people like Keneş as political red lines in summits risks being seen as interference in Sweden’s judicial system.
Nationalist Turkish media have also stalked Keneş and other exiles in Sweden, publishing their private addresses and photos of their homes and cars, or snaps of them walking around in Stockholm.
“I am not stupid. I’m not part of the coup,” Keneş told Swedish news agency SVT Nyheter two weeks ago.
“I am worried that the negotiations between the newly formed Swedish government and the Islamofascist and despotic Erdoğan regime will affect the decision on extradition,” Keneş added, as he awaited his extradition court hearing.
For his part, Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson promised to play ball in Tuesday’s friendly press conference with Erdoğan, but without remarking on specific names.
“I want to reassure all Turks: Sweden will live up to all the obligations made to Turkey in countering the terrorist threat before becoming a member of Nato and as a future ally,” Kristersson said.
His foreign minister, Tobias Billström, also told press last weekend Sweden would keep “a distance” from two Kurdish groups in Syria, the YPG and PYD, because too close relations were “damaging our relationship with Turkey”.
The right-wing Swedish government came to power in elections in September.
The former Social Democratic government has criticised Kristersson’s approach to the Nato process, calling it…
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