Turkish citizens who fled to Sweden will feel unsafe if Stockholm fails to abide by rule of law, says analyst

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (L) hold a press conference following their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on November 8, 2022. Adem ALTAN / AFP

Middle East/North Africa (MENA) and Turkey analyst from Sweden Bitte Hammergren said in a series of tweets on Monday that it is very important that Sweden continue to show that the principles of the rule of law apply in relations with Turkey, lest Turkish citizens who have fled to Sweden and have residence permits feel unsafe, even if they have trust in Swedish laws.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson was in Ankara on Monday hoping to persuade Turkey to drop its opposition to Sweden joining the NATO military alliance, with Ankara accusing Stockholm and Helsinki of harboring political dissidents who are labelled as “terrorists” by Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said just as Sweden wants to join NATO for its security, Turkey wants Sweden to take steps to help Turkey eliminate its concerns about its security and demanded the extradition of outspoken opponents, specifically naming journalist living in exile in Sweden Bülent Keneş.

MENA & Turkey analyst & journalist Bitte Hammergren

Hammergren expressed concern about this meeting and Sweden’s position in the negotiations with Turkey on Sweden’s application to join NATO. She pointed out that it was important that Sweden continue to show that the principles of the rule of law were applicable and recalled that “double criminality” also applied to extradition.

Mark Klamberg, professor of international law at Stockholm University, explained the “double criminality” in this case, saying the alleged offense must be a crime in both Sweden and Turkey for extradition to occur. He also pointed out that Turkey has a completely different view of terrorism than Sweden.

“Turkey is a country that flouts binding rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and applies anti-terror laws to imprison government critics,” Hammergren said on her website in a blog piece. Hammergren, who has also served as an adviser to former Swedish ministers, added that if she were advising Kristersson, she would strongly recommend that he reconsider his haste in trying to accommodate President Erdoğan since he will not hesitate to demand even more to bolster his electoral support, which will undermine the rule of law in Sweden.

Hammergren also stated that “if Sweden does not act based on the rule of law but rather on Erdoğan’s demands, then Erdoğan will keep pushing. It could result in Turkish citizens who have fled to Sweden and have residence permits feeling unsafe in Sweden.”

Turkish opposition figures living in exile in Sweden, particularly those on a list of political dissidents whose extradition is demanded by the Turkish government, were recently targeted by a pro-government Turkish newspaper, which revealed their home addresses and published secretly taken photographs. Last month, the Sabah daily published photos of Stockholm-based journalists Keneş, Abdullah Bozkurt and Levent Kenez. On Monday Erdoğan specifically mentioned Keneş’s name and demanded his extradition from Sweden.

Keneş said he’s not afraid of this situation because he has trust in Swedish law and he believes that Sweden abides by the rule of law.

NATO member Turkey is threatening to derail Sweden and Finland’s attempts to join the alliance unless it extradites dozens of people Ankara accuses of “terrorism,” including some exiled Turkish journalists living in Sweden.

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.

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.

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