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Swedish court stops extradition of Turkish journalist

December 19, 2022

The Swedish Supreme Court has blocked the extradition to Turkey of an exiled journalist. President Erdogan had demanded the return of Bulent Kenes as a condition of Sweden's NATO membership.

Bulent Kenes poses for a photo on November 10, 2022, near Stockholm
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in November wanted Kenes deported to Turkey Image: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Sweden's top court has prevented the extradition of exiled Turkish journalist Bulent Kenes, saying it was impossible under the circumstances.

NATO member Turkey is pressing for the return of the 55-year-old as one of the demands to be met for Ankara not to veto Sweden and Finland's bid to join the NATO military alliance.

What the court said

The court said there were "several hindrances" to the extradition of Kenes, the former editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily newspaper, including the fact that some of the accusations against him are not crimes in Sweden.

This, along with his refugee status and the political nature of his case, made the extradition impossible, it added.

"There is also a risk of persecution based on this person's political beliefs. An extradition can thusly not take place," Judge Petter Asp said in a statement.

Kenes, who now works for the Stockholm Center for Freedom, an organization set up by other Turkish dissidents in exile, told the AFP news agency that he was "happy" about the decision.

He stressed that the accusations against him had been fabricated by the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

What is Turkey alleging?

Turkish officials accuse Kenes of taking part in an attempted coup in 2016 and of being an adherent of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey claims was behind the putsch plot. Gulen has denied any involvement.

Turkey's delicate balancing act between Ukraine, Russia

Ankara has blocked the entrance of the two Nordic countries to NATO, with all member states needing to agree on the admission of new countries.

Among the major sticking points are the extradition of Kurdish refugees and other Turkish dissidents.

Kenes is the only person that Erdogan has identified by name among dozens of people Ankara wants to be extradited from Sweden.

The Swedish government has repeatedly pointed out that its judiciary is independent and has the final decision in extraditions.

Earlier this month, Sweden extradited to Turkey a man with alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by the EU.

rc/fb (AFP, AP, Reuters)