Erdoğan says Sweden needs to extradite 130 ‘terrorists’ to Turkey for its NATO bid

Turkish President and leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during his party’s parliamentary group meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara on June 1, 2022. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has demanded the extradition of some 130 people from Sweden to Turkey whom he called “terrorists” in order for his country to approve Sweden’s NATO membership, Turkish Minute reported, citing the state-run Anadolu news agency.

“We can’t pass it [the NATO deal] through parliament. In order for us to approve it, first of all, you have to give us the people on the list of … 130 wanted terrorists,” Erdoğan said at a youth event in the western province of Muğla on Sunday.

Sweden and Finland broke with decades of military non-alignment and applied to join NATO in response to Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine. Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members that still must ratify the Nordic countries’ applications.

Turkey has accused Finland and Sweden, in particular, of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish groups it deems “terrorists” as well as some political dissidents and has refrained from ratifying their NATO bids despite an agreement in Madrid in June.

The country has set the extradition of what it deems as terrorists from Sweden and Finland as a precondition for the approval of the both countries’ NATO memberships.

Erdoğan’s remarks have indicated that Turkey has increased the number of people whose extradition it is seeking from Sweden. It was first 33 people, and Radio Sweden reported last month that it rose to 42, including 16 alleged members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), 12 people with alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement and seven from leftist groups in addition to seven people who are accused of such crimes as smuggling.

Yet, Erdoğan put the figure at 130 on Sunday.

Journalist Bülent Keneş on list

Recalling a recent visit paid by Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to Ankara whom Erdoğan described as “not a bad person,” he said he asked for the extradition of journalist Bülent Keneş from Sweden at a news conference with Kristersson during his visit, but the Swedish judiciary has “interestingly” rejected Turkey’s request about Keneş.

Sweden’s Supreme Court in December refused to extradite Keneş, saying that some of the accusations against him weren’t crimes in Sweden, which along with the political nature of the case and his refugee status, made extradition impossible.

Keneş, the former editor-in-chief of the now-closed English language Today’s Zaman daily, who Turkey accuses of being involved in a 2016 attempt to topple Erdoğan, was the only person Erdoğan identified by name among the dozens of people Ankara wants extradited in exchange for approving Sweden’s NATO membership.

Erdoğan described Keneş as a “terrorist” during the news conference with Kristersson in Ankara in November.

PKK protests

The president also complained on Sunday that Swedish authorities are not taking any action against protests and demonstrations staged by PKK supporters in the country and said this could lead to more strain on bilateral relations.

“We will make them pay the price of this a hundred or a thousand times over, and we will continue to do so,” Erdoğan said.

A protest by the Rojava Committee of Sweden last week comparing Erdoğan to Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who was hung upside down after his execution in the closing days of World War II, attracted heavy criticism from the Turkish government.

The group hung an effigy of Erdoğan showing him dangling by his legs from a rope.

The PKK, which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s southeast since 1984, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

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