Erdogan demands exiled journalist in Sweden in exchange for NATO bid
Bulent Kenes has a history of being a staunch critic of the AKP and was accused of backing the Gulen Movement which has been classified as a terror organization by Ankara.
The former editor-in-chief of ZAMAN daily, Bulent Kenes, told reporters on Friday that he was worried about the possibility of being extradited back to Turkey where he is wanted by authorities over charges of conspiring against the government.
Kenes is currently taking refuge in Stockholm, Sweden, one of the countries, along with Finland, that is being pressured to give away exiled journalists and activists in exchange for Ankara's approval of their inclusion in the NATO alliance.
On Tuesday, during a press conference with Sweden's recently appointed Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters, "Currently, Bulent Kenes from FETO is in Sweden. It is of great importance for us that this terrorist is deported to Turkey."
Bulent was the only one whom Erdogan identified by name among dozens of other journalists and activists that the Turkish government deems "terrorists" and "dissidents".
Ankara wants Bulen, along with other political refugees, to be extradited in exchange for approving Sweden's membership bid to NATO who has been scrambling to join the alliance ever since the conflict in Ukraine began earlier this year.
Bulent has a history of being a staunch critic of the Justice and Development Party, formally known as the AKP, which Erdogan is currently leading.
He was exiled in 2016 after ZAMAN daily was accused of backing the Gulen movement led by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.
After uncovering a series of corruption scandals put by bureaucrats and personalities affiliated with the AKP, the Gulen movement (alternatively known as FETO) was accused of stirring unrest and attempting to establish a Parallel State structure.
Following a failed coup d'etat in 2016, the Gulen Movement has been classified as a terror organization by Ankara.
Sweden can’t call itself a democratic nation if it fufill’s Turkey’s demand to hand over journalist: CPJ https://t.co/4euwcSodu9 pic.twitter.com/d1JWOBTgax— Turkish Minute (@TurkishMinuteTM) November 9, 2022
On November 8, the Swedish minister said Sweden will fulfill Turkey's conditions to join NATO, adding that Sweden will not have any relationship with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) but has not mentioned other targeted groups, including the Gulen movement, which Kenes supports ideologically.
"Sweden will fulfill the memorandum to the end. We will not have any relationship with the group of the Kurdistan Workers Party," Ulf Kristenson told reporters.
One request vs. a long list of conditions— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) June 28, 2022
While #Turkey had a long list of conditions from #Finland and #Sweden, all the two Nordic states wanted was to join #NATO.
Here's your guide to understanding on what basis the agreement was made. pic.twitter.com/Aw7Jtu7frp
Kenes has been taking refuge in Sweden since 2017, and his extradition is scheduled to be decided by the Swedish Supreme Court before the end of this year.
Regarding the possibility of being extradited, Kenes told reporters, "If you had asked me this question six or seven months ago, I would have said that I have no concerns. But the NATO membership application is a big game changer, a paradigm change for Sweden ... so I am not 100 percent sure about the result."
While he said that he still had "trust in the Swedish legal system," he stressed that if the court was to greenlight his extradition, it would amount to "a huge, illegal scandal."
"I have nothing to do with terrorism, I have nothing to do with violence, I have nothing to do with a coup," he said.
"I do my journalism and just because of that Erdogan and his regime followed me, prosecuted me and chased me."
Geliyor gelmekte olan, durmak yok yola devam… pic.twitter.com/c9w4Cfmbse— Bulent Kenes 🇺🇦 (@bkenes) November 10, 2022
The two Nordic nations have been accused by Turkey of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish militants it deems "terrorists" and held back on ratifying their NATO membership despite an agreement in June.
On November 5, it was reported that Erdogan told NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg that until Finland and Sweden take the necessary "steps", Turkey will not ratify their membership of NATO.
Twenty-eight of NATO's 30 allies have so far ratified the accession of Finland and Sweden, leaving only Turkey and Hungary to sign off before they officially join the group.
On November 10, the foreign minister of Sweden, Tobias Billstrom, announced he will travel to Ankara to confer with Turkish officials about Sweden's proposed accession to NATO.
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