Turkey’s public broadcaster targets journalist in exile in Stockholm

Exiled journalist Bülent Keneş

Turkey’s state-run TRT Haber news station has targeted a Turkish journalist in exile by broadcasting footage of his home in Stockholm, Turkish Minute reported.

TRT’s Enes Boyraz reported from the vicinity of the home of Bülent Keneş, an academic and the former editor-in-chief of the now-closed English language Today’s Zaman daily, for a news story about Turkey’s demand for Keneş’s extradition. Boyraz said the Swedish judiciary would soon make a decision about Keneş’s extradition to Turkey.

Keneş is among a number of political dissidents whose extradition is sought by Turkey from Sweden in exchange for Turkey dropping its objection to the Nordic country joining NATO.

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.”

Keneş has recently come under growing pressure from the Turkish government and pro-government media outlets.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan singled him out by name and called Keneş a “terrorist” during a news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Ankara on Tuesday.

“Issues such as the number of the terrorists who will be extradited to Turkey, 30 or 100, are things open to discussion. The deportation of the terrorist named Bülent Keneş is of importance to us,” Erdoğan said at the news conference with Kristersson.

Keneş was also targeted last month by the pro-Turkish-government Sabah newspaper, which revealed his home address and secretly taken photos in Stockholm.

In response to the TRT Haber reporter, Keneş tweeted that he thinks Boyraz is a young and inexperienced journalist and that he’s ruining his own name with his so-called journalism.

“If you want to do journalism, call me. Be my guest at my home. Instead of surreptitiously shooting videos of my house from afar, drink tea with me and ask your questions,” Keneş told the journalist.

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 a 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 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.

Keneş has catapulted himself to the top of Ankara’s wanted list through his outspoken criticism of President Erdoğan. He received prison sentences of 21 months and two years, seven months in 2015 and 2016, respectively, for insulting the president in a series of tweets that the journalist said were merely the expression of a critical opinion.

Keneş currently faces three aggravated life sentences plus 15 years in prison in Turkey over one of his articles.

After the failed coup in Turkey in 2016, Keneş went into hiding for several weeks and fled the country due to arrest warrants and a travel ban. He has been living in Stockholm for the last six years.

In 2020 he wrote a book titled “A Genocide in the Making? Erdoğan Regime’s Crackdown on the Gülen Movement,” which he says attempts to sound the alarm to the international community about developments in Turkey that are inching closer to a full-fledged genocide against the Gülen movement.

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