‘Sweden is a state governed under the rule of law,’ says justice minister on journalist’s extradition case

Bulent Kenes, a 53 year old Turkish journalist who fled from his country to Sweden due to his critics of the Turkish President, poses for a photo on November 10, 2022 near Stockholm. - The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on November 8, 2022 he wanted the Turkish journalist deported to Turkey as a part of Sweden's bid to join Nato. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)

Swedish Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer has said Sweden is a state governed under the rule of law, in reference to a Swedish court’s decision refusing to extradite Turkish journalist Bülent Keneş, Swedish public broadcaster SVT reported.

The Supreme Court of Sweden on Monday refused to extradite Turkish journalist in exile Keneş, a key demand by Ankara to ratify Stockholm’s NATO membership.

There were “several hindrances” to sending the former editor-in-chief of the now-closed English language Today’s Zaman daily, whom Turkey accuses of involvement in a 2016 attempt to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, back to Turkey, the court said.

“Sweden is a state governed under the rule of law, and we have a regulation for dealing with such cases. The Supreme Court has given its decision, and now the Swedish government will decide how to proceed,” Strömmer said in remarks to SVT following the court’s decision.

The Swedish minister also said he does not want to speculate on whether or not the court’s decision on Keneş might have an impact on Sweden’s application to NATO.

Keneş, who also spoke to SVT following the announcement of the court decision, said he was happy but that the decision was expected. Keneş also said he trusted Swedish laws to protect him after hearing Erdoğan mentioning him by name during a press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in November.

NATO member Turkey is threatening to freeze Sweden and Finland’s attempts to join NATO unless they extradite dozens of people Ankara accuses of “terrorism” including Keneş, the only person Erdoğan has identified by name.

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 Gülen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

Keneş is accused by the Turkish government of links to the Gülen movement, labelled by the Turkish government as the mastermind of the failed coup in 2016 and a “terrorist organization.” The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch or terrorist activity.

Today’s Zaman, a sister newspaper to Turkey’s best-selling newspaper Zaman, was closed down by the government in the aftermath of the coup attempt in addition to dozens of other media organizations due to their links to the movement.

Both Swedish and Finnish government officials said they would 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.

Keneş was also recently targeted by the pro-government Sabah daily, which revealed his home address and secretly taken photos in Stockholm.

The journalist left Turkey in the aftermath of the coup attempt to avoid a government-led post-coup crackdown targeting critical journalists as well as non-loyalist citizens.

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