While NATO kicked off accession procedures for Sweden and Finland on Tuesday, Turkey is threatening to derail this process if the two countries do not hand over dozens of suspected terrorists, refugees on their floor. Who are these suspects clamored for by Ankara? Can these procedures succeed? Turkey opposes the entry of these two countries into NATO.
“A historic day for Euro-Atlantic security.” On Tuesday July 5, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg launched the process of integrating Sweden and Finland. Breaking with their tradition of non-alignment, the two countries now wish to join the Atlantic Alliance, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which they perceive as a direct threat to their security.
Although none of the 30 member countries opposed this candidacy, Turkey demanded from the two countries a commitment to support its fight against terrorism and in particular against the Kurdish militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), under penalty of block the process. Because Sweden and Finland, to which the accession protocol grants the status of guest country, will not be integrated into the Alliance before the ratification of the 30 Member States.
Following the signing of an agreement between the three countries on June 28, Turkey said it was seeking the extradition of 12 suspects from Finland and 21 from Sweden. For his part, President Erdogan claimed that Stockholm has already promised to return “73 terrorists” to Turkey.
Yet, while the agreement stipulates that the two countries undertake to “deal with” requests for expulsion or extradition from Turkey, no list or mention of these “promises” appears on the document signed by Helsinki, Stockholm and Ankara.
At the end of June, Hürriyet Daily News, the major Turkish daily that has become a faithful spokesperson for the president, published a list of Turkish “terrorists” residing in Sweden and Finland whose extradition Ankara is requesting. Several of them are presented as fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish armed political organization recognized as terrorist by many countries and at war for several decades against Turkish power.
This is the case of Aziz Turan, a former active member of the group who later became an informant for the state before fleeing to Sweden, which offered him political asylum. Now 64, he is accused by Turkey of the murder of a writer – which he denies.
Another target of the Turkish government is human rights activist and publisher Ragıp Zarakolu. The latter was accused of terrorism in Turkey for having participated in conferences of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), a pro-Kurdish political party. Briefly arrested several times by the Turkish police, the activist has lived in exile in Sweden since 2013.
In addition to the alleged fighters and supporters of the PKK, the list includes personalities designated as terrorists because of their proximity to the Gülen movement. A former ally of power, this network of associations, led by the Turkish imam based in the United States Fethullah Gülen, is held responsible by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the coup attempt of July 15, 2016. Designated since in Turkey by the acronym Fetö (for “Fethullahist terrorist organization”), this movement is not considered a terrorist organization by either the EU or the United States.
Among these suspects are several journalists, such as Bülent Keneş, former editor of the Gulenist daily Zaman, which was one of the most influential newspapers in the country, as well as Levent Kenez, who headed the editorial staff of the anarchist newspaper Meydan. Two media banned in Turkey following the failed putsch. Will Turkey continue to oppose the entry of these two countries into NATO?