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Turkey offered to swap UAE spies for extradition of mobster, journalist claims

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Turkish journalist Fatih Altaylı has alleged that Turkey offered to give the United Arab Emirates two alleged spies who were arrested in Turkey in 2019 and 2020 in exchange for the extradition of well-known Turkish mafia leader Sedat Peker, local media reported on Saturday.

“Turkey is trying to bring Sedat Peker back from the Emirates. To do that, they want to use the UAE spies previously arrested in Turkey as leverage. They offered to hand them over in exchange for the extradition of Sedat Peker to Turkey,” Altaylı quoted a source as saying in his Saturday column for the Habertürk news website.

The journalist said his source was someone close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who also has a background in the public sector. “He called me and talked about a resumption of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, which was quickly coming closer to fruition,” Altaylı said.

He added that the UAE hadn’t yet responded to Turkey’s offer but that Ankara thinks it’s highly likely their answer will be positive.

“I think the swap offer might be true. But I don’t think it’s likely the UAE will hand over Peker that easily,” Altaylı commented.

Jordanian citizen Ahmed Mahmoud Ayesh Al Astal, who has been in Turkey since 2013, was caught by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and counterterrorism police on October 17, 2020, on suspicion of working as an intelligence agent for the United Arab Emirates. He was arrested by a court a few days later.

The Middle East Eye reported that the Turkish government had officially requested the extradition of Peker in May as the mobster, living in Dubai, was making striking revelations in videos he releases on YouTube regarding state-mafia relations and drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials and their family members.

The UAE has not responded to the request as there is no extradition treaty between Ankara and Abu Dhabi.

Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups who was once a staunch supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, left Turkey following the publication of a report related to arms trafficking to Syria that was allegedly carried out under the guise of humanitarian aid.

The mafia boss, who since June has been making his sensational claims on Twitter instead of YouTube, on Friday told journalist İsmail Saymaz from Halk TV through his lawyer that UAE officials had told him not to release any more YouTube videos defaming current and former politicians from another country.

Peker’s revelations came as Turkey and the UAE have recently appeared to ease longstanding tensions, especially in the face of a rare call earlier this week between Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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