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Swedish Court Blocks Extradition of Journalist Sought by Turkey in Nato Deal

The number of people Ankara wants extradited has grown over time, from 33 to 45 to 73

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SWEDEN/TURKEY: The extradition of a Turkish journalist in exile, which was a fundamental condition for Ankara to approve Stockholm’s NATO membership, has been rejected by Sweden’s supreme court.

Bülent Keneş, a former editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily who Turkey accusess of taking part in an attempt to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016, was ordered to be sent back, but the court stated on Monday that there were “several hindrances” in the way of his return.

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The political character of the case, some of the charges against Kenes, and his refugee status combined to make extradition impossible, the court added.

Among the hundreds of people Ankara wants to be deported in exchange for granting Sweden’s Nato membership, Kenes is the only one named by Erdogan.

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When decades—or centuries, in the case of Sweden, millennia—of not joining a military alliance, Sweden and Finland decided to apply to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine.

All NATO members must unanimously approve the bid.

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Turkey is the sole nation threatening to block its admission, with Hungary set to ratify its membership in early 2023.

Despite striking a deal with Sweden and the two nations in June, Turkey has delayed ratifying the Nato applications because it claims Sweden offers sanctuary to illegal Kurdish organisations it considers “terrorists.”

Ankara said it anticipates harder action from Stockholm, in particular on a number of topics, such as the extradition of criminals.

Ulf Kristersson, the prime minister of Sweden, visited Turkey in November to meet with Erdogan and discuss the problems. During a joint press conference, when asked about the “terrorists” he wants Sweden to extradite, Erdoan only mentions Kenes.

Stockholm has often emphasized that its justice is impartial and has final extradition authority.

A convicted PKK member who had fled to Sweden in 2015 but had his asylum application turned down was repatriated to Turkey by Sweden in the first few days of December.

Kenes, who now works for the Stockholm Center for Freedom, an organization established by fellow exiled Turkish dissidents, said on Monday that he was “happy” with the court’s decision but that it hadn’t surprised him.

“It is not an unexpected decision. I have always repeated that I had 100% trust in the Swedish legal system and judicial system because Sweden has the rule of law,” Kenes said

The number of people Ankara wants extradited has grown over time, from 33 to 45 to 73, according to unofficial lists released by Turkish government-affiliated media.

In November, Kenes asserted that he thought Erdoan singled him out “because he has known me for decades” due to his protracted career as a journalist and because it was the first name that sprang to mind.

Also Read: NATO Vows to Provide More Help for Ukraine 

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