The Swedish government has decided to reject Turkey’s request for the extradition of four Turkish citizens, including former police chief Murat Çetiner, Swedish public broadcaster SVT reported on Thursday.
Turkish authorities have demanded the extradition of 42 people, up from a previous 33, mostly political dissidents, as the main requirement for ratifying Sweden’s NATO membership.
Sweden’s Supreme Court had previously ruled that the extradition of these four individuals, all of whom allegedly have links to the Gülen movement, will not be possible due to the fact that the crimes they are accused of are not criminal offenses under Swedish law.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of Dec. 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
Speaking to SVT, Çetiner said his lawyer was initially informed of the decision but that it was confirmed by a letter he received from the government on Thursday. ”I am happy about the decision,” Çetiner said.
Stating that he has been feeling uncomfortable about the importance of his case to Sweden and the NATO accession process, he said, “Sweden is a peaceful country, and I am very happy to live here with my family. I only feel sorry about bringing problems from Turkey. Erdoğan is trying to put pressure on Sweden and Swedish society, and our cases have been used as tools.”
Çetiner served in the Turkish police’s counterterrorism department and fled to Sweden to escape a crackdown that followed a corruption investigation that targeted Erdoğan and his cronies in late 2013.
The court also refused to extradite exiled Turkish journalist Bülent Keneş, a key demand by Ankara to ratify Stockholm’s NATO membership. “There is also a risk of persecution based on this person’s political beliefs. An extradition can thusly not take place,” Judge Petter Asp said in a statement.
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.”
The issue of extraditions has become relevant in connection with Sweden and Finland‘s request to join NATO. However, the request for the extradition of a list of people was mostly made in 2019 and 2020 by Turkey, long before Sweden submitted its application for membership in NATO.