Sweden on Monday agreed to extradite to Turkey a man convicted of drug trafficking who also supported the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a first since Stockholm’s NATO bid was stalled by Ankara, Agence France-Presse reported.
Turkey has accused Sweden of being a haven for “terrorists,” especially members of the PKK, and has asked Stockholm to return dozens of people.
The government has decided to “grant an extradition from Sweden regarding a 35-year-old Turkish citizen,” justice ministry official Ashraf Ahmed told AFP.
The decision comes after the Supreme Court in May cleared his repatriation to Turkey, where he is expected to serve out a drug trafficking sentence.
Turkey wants Sweden to crack down on extremist groups and send back dozens of suspects Ankara believes are linked to a failed 2016 coup and a decades-long Kurdish fight for an independent state.
Sweden’s foreign ministry said officials from the two countries are due meet on Wednesday to discuss Sweden’s stalled NATO application.
Turkey’s long-serving President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won re-election in May.
The man, whose extradition was cleared, was sentenced in 2014 to four years and seven months in a Turkish prison for transporting a bag containing cannabis, according to the Swedish Supreme Court ruling.
He was released on parole and moved to Sweden but was arrested in August of last year following a request from Turkish prosecutors.
The man opposed the move, claiming the real reason he is being sought by Turkish authorities are his links to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and for having shown support for the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
In its ruling, the court noted it had asked the Turkish prosecutor if there were ongoing probes or charges linked to a “terrorist organization” or “insulting the Turkish president,” which Turkish authorities denied.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO member states that have yet to ratify Sweden’s bid — which requires unanimous ratification.
Ending two centuries of neutrality and military non-alignment, Sweden and neighboring Finland announced bids to join NATO in May 2022, three months after Russia invaded Ukraine.
While Sweden’s bid still faces opposition, Finland managed to become the 31st member of NATO on April 4.