Pro-Erdoğan daily targets yet another Turkish journalist living in exile

A Turkish journalist living in exile in Sweden who’s on a list of political dissidents whose extradition is demanded by Turkey has been targeted by a pro-government newspaper that revealed his home address and published secretly taken photos, in the latest episode of a manhunt being carried out for journalists who have been forced to flee Turkey and reside overseas.

This time it was journalist Levent Kenez, former editor-in-chief of the now-closed Meydan daily, who was targeted by the Sabah daily. Kenez is one of the political dissidents whose extradition Turkey is demanding from the Swedish government in exchange for dropping its objection to the Nordic country’s NATO membership.

Sabah on Wednesday published secretly taken photos of Kenez having a cigarette in front of his house in Stockholm. The paper also revealed Kenez’s address in addition to publishing pictures of his house.

Kenez, who was one of the founders of the Stockholm Center for Freedom, an advocacy organization that promotes the rule of law, democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, is  writing reports for the Nordic Research Monitoring Network, which exposes the Turkish government’s relations with radical and extremist groups, unlawful activities of the Turkish intelligence service and government corruption.

It was again the daily’s news coordinator, Abdurrahman Şimşek, who is suspected of having ties to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), who followed Kenez in Stockholm to find out his address and take pictures of him.

Şimşek also recently targeted three other journalists in exile, Cevheri Güven in Germany and Abdullah Bozkurt and Bülent Keneş in Sweden, revealing their addresses and secretly taken photos on Sabah’s front page. Keneş is an academic and a former editor-in-chief of the now-closed English language Today’s Zaman newspaper, and Bozkurt was the former Ankara representative of Today’s Zaman.

The four are among the dozens of people who left Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016 to avoid a government-led post-coup crackdown targeting critical journalists as well as non-loyalist citizens.

They continue their job from abroad, and their reports and social media posts anger the government and its supporters as they talk about the dirty relations of the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with crime groups and radical organizations as well as their corruption.

NATO member Turkey is threatening to freeze Sweden and Finland’s attempts to join the Western defense alliance unless they extradite dozens of people Ankara accuses of “terrorism” including Kenez.

A non-binding deal Sweden and fellow NATO aspirant Finland signed with Turkey in June commits them to “expeditiously and thoroughly” examine Ankara’s requests for suspects linked to the faith-based Gülen movement, which is labeled as the mastermind of a failed coup and a “terrorist organization” by the Turkish government, as well as members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

Both Swedish and Finnish government officials said they will continue to respect national and international laws regarding Turkey’s extradition requests and that the decision for extraditions will be up to independent authorities and the courts.

The seven Gülen-linked political dissidents whose extradition Turkey is seeking from Sweden, according to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency earlier this month, are writer Harun Tokak, journalists Kenez and Keneş, Yılmaz Aytan, former police chief Murat Çetiner, Orhan Er and Harun Ayvaz, who all face trials in Turkey due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The Swedish Supreme Court already rejected an extradition request for Kenez from Turkey in December 2021.

Sabah’s story about Kenez comes at a time when Turkish journalists in exile are being subjected to attacks by unknown assailants believed to be linked to the Turkish government. The Sabah daily is owned by the Turkuvaz Media Group, whose CEO is Serhat Albayrak, the brother of Erdoğan’s son-in-law and former finance minister Berat Albayrak.

In March Ahmet Dönmez, a Turkish journalist living in exile in Sweden and known for his reports on mafia groups associated with Turkish government officials including President Erdoğan, was attacked by two men in Stockholm.

Dönmez, who lost consciousness after the attack, which took place in front of his 6-year-old daughter, was treated in intensive care due to an injury to his head.

In 2020 journalist Bozkurt sustained injuries when he was attacked by three men who were waiting for him in front of his house in Stockholm.

In July 2021 another exiled journalist, Erk Acarer, was attacked “with fists and knives” in the courtyard of his apartment building in Berlin.

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