Sweden extradites Kurdish refugee to Turkey amid NATO bid

Sweden on Friday extradited a Kurdish refugee to Turkey as Ankara keeps pressuring the Nordic country to meet its demands in return for NATO membership. The refugee is among dozens of people wanted in Turkey for terror-related charges. Such steps just show that Sweden will do everything to join NATO.

Sweden and Finland made bids to enter NATO after Russia launched a major military offensive against Ukraine in February. Both Scandinavian countries were already close partners of NATO but by joining it they would gain the support of 30 member countries if attacked by their foe, Russia, or any other country. The military alliance makes its decisions by consensus, meaning that both countries require the blessing of all 30 countries. Only  Turkey refused to vote for the bids.

Sweden and Finland signed a deal with Turkey in June, accepting most of the country’s demands in return for their NATO membership. This includes the extradition a long list of people wanted by Turkey for terror-related charges, including many Kurds. 

Mahmut Tat, a bus driver in Turkey’s Kurdish city of Dersim, sought asylum in Sweden in 2015 after being sentenced at home for six years and 10 months for alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). His name is among those people wanted by Ankara.

Tat lost connection with his family on Friday but later spoke on the phone with them from Istanbul, telling them that he had been extradited by Sweden to Turkey, reported the independent Duvar news outlet late Friday, citing his son and lawyer. Turkish state media confirmed the news early Saturday.  

The Kurdish man was detained by the Swedish police on November 22 but he was able to communicate with his family. Duvar on Thursday cited him as telling his family that his hands were hurt due to being handcuffed.   

Three years after applying for asylum, Tat was invited by Sweden’s immigration agency and told that his application had been rejected and taken over by the Swedish intelligence agency. Tat told Duvar that Swedish authorities told him that he was a “dangerous” person for their country because he was wanted by Turkey but he said in his defense that he only took part in “two democratic protests”.

“As an ordinary citizen, I took the side of the oppressed and supported the democratic struggle. If this is terrorism, yes I am a terrorist,” he was cited by Duvar as saying. 

Turkish state-owned Anadolu Agency claimed that Tat was a member of the PKK and that his extradition was part of Sweden’s “pledges to cooperate with Ankara to fully address its security concerns.”
It added that Tat was extradited via a plane “after completing the procedures.” 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said late June that Sweden has promised to extradite 73 Turkish nationals wanted by Ankara for terror charges in return for Turkey’s support for the Nordic country’s bid to become a member of NATO. However, the exact number of wanted people is not clear as Turkish officials have given various figures.

The people Turkey wants to be extradited are those accused of having links to the PKK and its alleged Syrian offshoots – People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its political arm, Democratic Union Party (PYD) – as well as Fethullah Gulen – a Turkish cleric who lives in the US and is accused of orchestrating 2016 failed coup attempt against Erdogan.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that Sweden and Finland have made some progress in meeting his country’s demands but added that both Nordic countries need to take “concrete steps” to win Turkey’s support for their NATO membership. 

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