Sweden summons Turkish ambassador over writer and activist arrests

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström
Sweden has summoned Turkey’s ambassador over the detention of two Swedish citizens, in a sign of souring relations with the EU member state candidate, reported by The Local online news outlet. Summoned Turkey’s Ambassador Kaya Türkmen reportedly met with Annika Söder, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström’s state secretary at Swedish foreign ministry on Thursday.

“I and the rest of the (Swedish) government have since a long time made it clear to Turkish leaders about how we see these cases and the worrying developments in Turkey,” Wallström said in a Facebook post on Thursday. “We have underlined that the latest events have a direct impact on our and the EU’s relationship with Turkey,” she added.

Ali Gharavi, an IT consultant, was detained while attending a July 5, 2017 workshop in İstanbul along with several other human rights activists, including Amnesty International’s Turkey director İdil Eser. Also Hamza Yalçın, a Swedish-Turkish citizen who writes for a left-wing online magazine, was arrested on August 3, 2017 in Barcelona by Spanish police on a Turkish warrant. Turkey accuses the men of “supporting terror groups”.

However, human rights groups say the detentions aim at silencing political dissent in a crackdown under the state of emergency imposed after last year’s coup attempt.

Describing his arrest in Barcelona as a “Kafkaesque nightmare”, Yalçın wrote in the Swedish daily Expressen on Monday that “My world was collapsing. My holiday had turned into a living hell. Why is this happening to me right now?” He said Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had “personally” used the multinational police organisation Interpol to arrest him.

Wallström said Sweden would “make it clear” that Interpol arrest warrants could not be misused for “political purposes.” “It is especially serious in cases that risk affecting freedom of speech,” she added.

Doğan Akhanlı, a 60-year-old German-Turkish writer was also detained by Spanish police at his hotel in the southern Spanish city of Granada over an Interpol red notice earlier requested by Turkey. Akhanlı was released on last Sunday on condition that he remain in Madrid while Spain assesses Turkey’s extradition request.

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