ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish authorities on Saturday extradited a member of an outlawed militant group arrested and jailed in Istanbul from Sweden, where he fled, Turkey’s state news agency said.
The move comes as the two Nordic countries press for the extradition of suspected terrorists to Turkey as the NATO member continues to pursue bids by Sweden and Finland to join the military alliance. Turkey’s foreign minister said this week that some progress had been made, but that “concrete steps” were still needed to secure Turkey’s approval.
Anadolu news agency identified the man as Mahmut Taut, who was jailed for more than six years in 2015 for membership in an armed terrorist organization. Sweden confirmed the deportation but did not name the individual.
“(It’s) a deportation case where a person had his asylum application rejected,” Sweden’s Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergaard told Swedish public broadcaster SVT.
Anadolu said Tat was flown from Stockholm to Istanbul overnight, fulfilling Turkey’s extradition request. SVT said the man fled to Sweden following his crime and lived in the west of the country where he worked in the restaurant industry.
Tat was convicted of being a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which led a decades-long separatist insurgency in Turkey. The group is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
When Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in May after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, abandoning their long-standing military non-alignment policies, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately accused his country of not accepting them and accusing the two Nordic countries of turning a blind eye. Terrorism. Any decision on NATO expansion requires the approval of all alliance members.
Ahead of the historic NATO summit, the three countries signed a joint memorandum in June that prevented a Turkish veto. In the memorandum, the Nordic countries stated that they should address Turkey’s extradition requests for people it considers to be terrorists. Sweden and Finland “affirm” that the PKK is a terrorist organization and have pledged “not to support” its Syrian affiliate, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. They also lifted an arms embargo on Turkey imposed after Turkey’s 2019 Syria operation against the YPG.
Sweden’s Malmer Stenergaard insisted to SVT that the new government led by Prime Minister Ulf Kristerson played no role in the extradition decision.
“The government has no role in the (judicial) process that includes the examination of asylum applications,” she told SVT. “This means that neither the government nor an individual cabinet member can interfere or influence the responsible authorities or courts in the handling of individual cases.”
Kristerson, the Swedish prime minister, visited Turkey last month and pledged to work to combat “terrorist” threats to Turkey.
The parliaments of Turkey and Hungary have yet to approve NATO’s applications. 28 other NATO states have already done so.
Tanner reports from Helsinki, Finland.