Czech court releases former PYD leader Muslim despite Turkey’s extradition request

A Czech court on Tuesday released Salih Muslim, the former co-chairperson of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), who was detained and subsequently arrested in the Czech capital of Prague on Sunday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Muslim’s detention was based on an Interpol Red Notice issued at Turkey’s request for his arrest. Turkish security officials and the Turkish Justice Ministry had begun the administrative process for the extradition of Muslim. The Turkish Interior Ministry recently put Muslim’s name on the list of “most wanted terrorists” and offered a bounty of nearly $1 million.

In his first statement to the pro-Kurdish Medya News TV, Muslim criticized the arrest warrant Turkey had issued for him. He said that “an arrest warrant for me was previously issued through the judiciary. I was referred to court. There can be no such a thing. I am a citizen of another country. The court made its decision on this basis and released me.”

Muslim thanked everyone who exerted efforts for his release, saying: “We are all one. They are trying to silence us as we are having talks in Europe for Afrin. They were unable to succeed, though. Europe has laws and principles, and not everyone is under the Turkish state’s command. They cannot silence the Kurdish people.”

In 2014, Muslim paid an official visit to Turkey and met with Turkish Foreign Ministry officials. In an interview he gave to the Radikal daily back then, he said his visit took place following an invitation from the ministry. Over the past several years, Turkey’s view of Muslim has apparently changed.

Speaking to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, Turkey’s Ambassador in Prague Ahmet Necati Bigalı said: “Unfortunately, it seems that the information and documents prepared by our Justice Ministry were not taken into consideration by the court. This decision is in no way acceptable.”

“The decision may harm ties between the Czech Republic and Turkey as it undermines the idea that terrorism can best be fought through international cooperation,” Bigalı added.

The inclusion of Muslim’s name on a terror list comes at a time when the Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch in Afrin against the PYD, which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Meanwhile, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Tuesday slammed a Czech court’s decision earlier in the day to release Muslim. “The decision will affect Turkey’s relations with the Czech Republic,” Bozdağ told journalists.

Bozdağ said the court ruling contravened international law. “This decision is in clear support of terrorism. This is a political decision that cannot be explained in terms of law. … This decision supports terrorist acts against Turkey,” added Bozdağ.

Bozdağ has also said that the court ruling came as no surprise to Turkey “because the EU member countries’ stance on Turkey and on the people who have carried out terrorist acts against Turkey is obvious.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also condemned the decision to release Muslim, saying that rejecting Turkey’s request for the provisional arrest of Muslim did not comply with the Czech Republic’s responsibilities under international law and the fight against terrorism.

“The PYD is a Syrian offshoot of the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union, including the Czech Republic, a member of the EU,” it said in a statement. “With this decision, the Czech Republic has provided a new example that the rhetoric on the fight against terrorism in Europe was insincere and hardly believable,” the statement added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey had issued a diplomatic note to the Czech Republic criticizing the release of Muslim, adding that Turkey would pursue Muslim “wherever he goes.”

“This court decision doesn’t mean that everything is over. We will not give up. We will not stop pursuing him if he goes to another country,” Çavusoglu said about Muslim. Speaking to reporters in Algeria, Çavuşoğlu reportedly said a red notice for Muslim was already out while other verdicts were also in effect against him.

Çavuşoğlu has termed the Czech court’s decision to release Muslim as a sign of “insincerity” of many European countries in the fight against terrorism. He added that after Muslim was detained in Prague, Ankara used its foreign, justice and interior ministries and also sent a diplomatic note to the Czech Republic for his extradition.

“We are always at Salih Muslim’s back…We will do what is necessary under the framework of law,” he said. He also claimed that Muslim was responsible for terror attacks in Turkey, including the 2016 attack at Güvenpark in the capital of Ankara.

Meanwhile, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said Turkey expects Czech authorities to compensate for the “mistake” it made by releasing Muslim. Gül said the court’s decision was politically motivated, adding that Turkey would “never accept this decision.”

The Turkish Interior Ministry recently put Muslim’s name on the list of “most wanted terrorists” and offered a bounty of nearly $1 million.

Muslim is being sought on charges of disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state, homicide, attempted homicide, damaging public property and transporting hazardous substances, Anadolu said. The PYD is considered by Turkey to be the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed PKK, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. (SCF with

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