Sweden's top court refuses the extradition of wanted terrorist

Ahead of the Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Tobias Billström’s visit to Türkiye this Thursday, Stockholm’s refusal to extradite a 2016 coup d’état plotter to Türkiye is making the week's headlines. Questions arise taking into consideration the Trilateral Memorandum signed with Türkiye and Finland.

Swedish authorities responded negatively to the extradition request of a terrorist group member from the Turkish government. 

Bülent Keneş, former editor-in-chief of Today’s Zaman newspaper, fled Türkiye after the unsuccessful coup attempt in 2016 led by the Gülen terrorist organization (FETÖ). 

Living under asylum in Sweden, he is considered one of the 2016 coup’s plotters.

In the Trilateral Memorandum signed this summer between Türikye, Finland, and Sweden, the Nordic states promised to extradite wanted criminals.

The Swedish Supreme Court declared that since Keneş was a political criminal, there were obstacles to the process. Anadolu Ajansı adds that for extradition to take place, a minimum of a one-year sentence has to be penalized to the culprit. Keneş’s situation does not satisfy this requirement.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed Türkiye’s wish to have this person extradited and brought back to Türkiye back in November.

Türkiye’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, criticized the Swedish response to the request, deeming it as a “very negative development.” 

“WE WANT TO SEE CONCRETE DEVELOPMENTS”

With the Trilateral Memorandum, Sweden and Finland guarantee to help Türkiye with national security issues, namely counterterrorism and arms trade.

The Memorandum goes both ways. Finland and Sweden help Türkiye with national security, and Türkiye votes in their favor in their NATO bid.

Since the signatures were sealed on the document, authorities of the respective countries declared their support for Türkiye in its counterterrorism campaign.

The new government in Sweden stated they would be loyal to the deal and that they were determined. “Now we have more tools to commit to our promises,” said Swedish Premier Ulf Kristersson.

But the current developments raise questions about Sweden’s reluctance and devoutness. If Stockholm cannot follow up on promises, how are they to be trusted as a NATO ally? 

In a recent statement in light of the latest developments, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated that Türkiye “does not want any kind words, but concrete steps.”

Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession are bound to their commitment to their promises, and the extradition issue is one of the most important for Ankara.

TRT World recognized the extradition request of Bülent Keleş as a “key part for Ankara to ratify Stockholm’s membership.”

Keneş’s extradition request is regarded as a high-profile request because he is the only person among all who was named exclusively by President Erdoğan.

CONTENTS OF THE MEMORANDUM

The Trilateral Memorandum is the main text between Türkiye, Finland, and Sweden in their NATO accession journey.

Türkiye, who initially vetoed the accession of Finland and Sweden for security reasons, tied the accession of Helsinki and Stockholm to the conditions defined in the Memorandum.

The Memorandum outlines the most critical aspects of the deal as extradition, preventing the activities of terrorist organizations (mainly of PKK, its extensions, and others that perpetuate attacks on Türkiye), and the removal of national arms embargoes.

A mechanism named the Permanent Joint Mechanism was set to be inaugurated by the trio for monitoring and facilitation of the implementation of the measures.

The objective of the Memorandum is to ease Türkiye’s counterterrorism burden and to let Finland and Sweden into NATO to relieve their security concerns.

SWEDEN RETURNED MAHMUT TAT

Recently, after Ulf Kristersson’s Türkiye visit, Sweden returned Mahmut Tat, a member of PKK who has been convicted of six years and ten months in prison in Türkiye.

This action has been regarded by many as a gesture from Sweden, showing that they were indeed determined to follow up on their promises.

Ulf Kristersson said: “Even if it targets Sweden or not, we will not let our country turn into a terror base. As is in our country, Türkiye reserves the right to defend itself against terrorism. I have always been clear on this topic.” in a letter. 

Given Sweden’s need to access NATO and support for Türkiye’s counterterrorism campaign, a mere legal obstacle might be the cause behind the Bülent Keneş case rather than a political move.