Bülent Keneş, a Turkish journalist living in exile in Sweden, said he is not afraid or worried after hearing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling him a “terrorist” during a press meeting with the Swedish prime minister in Ankara on Tuesday, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the Swedish Dagens Nyheter newspaper.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson was in Ankara hoping to persuade Turkey to drop its opposition to Sweden joining the NATO military alliance, with Ankara accusing Stockholm and Helsinki of harboring political dissidents who are labelled as “terrorists” by Turkey.
Among them is journalist Bülent Keneş, an academic and the former editor-in-chief of the now-closed English language Today’s Zaman daily, also an outspoken critic of Erdoğan’s government.
“Issues such as the number of the terrorists who will be extradited to Turkey, 30 or 100, are things open to discussion. The deportation of the terrorist named Bülent Keneş is of importance to us,” Erdoğan said at a news conference with Kristersson.
Keneş, who heard his name had been mentioned specifically by Erdoğan when he was having dinner with his family, said he was not surprised but was not expecting to hear his name repeated in that situation.
Keneş said he’s not afraid because he has trust in Swedish law. “I’m not worried at all because I have always believed and still believe that Sweden obeys the rule of law. It means everything here, and so does respect for human rights and freedoms. So I trust that Swedish laws will protect me,” he said.
“I haven’t done anything other than write news articles, opinion pieces and scientific articles. I have nothing to do with terrorism or violence.”
Keneş also said that earlier this year he was called by the Swedish Security Service (Säpo) for a meeting because he was on the list of people Turkey wanted extradited. Keneş and Säpo officials met on March 2, and they will make a statement about Keneş’s situation based on the meeting.
He is still awaiting an answer from a Swedish court as to whether his extradition has been approved or denied.
NATO member Turkey is threatening to freeze Sweden and Finland’s attempts to join NATO unless they extradite dozens of people Ankara accuses of “terrorism” including Keneş.
The Swedish parliament on Tuesday said it would vote next week on a constitutional amendment that would make it possible to strengthen anti-terror laws, a key demand from Turkey.
The amendment will make it possible to introduce new laws to “limit freedom of association of groups involved in terrorism,” the parliament said in a statement, adding that the vote was scheduled for Nov. 16.
A non-binding deal Sweden and fellow NATO aspirant Finland signed with Turkey in June commits them to “expeditiously and thoroughly” examine Ankara’s requests for suspects linked to the Gülen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Keneş is accused by the Turkish government of links to the Gülen movement, labelled by the Turkish government as the mastermind of a failed coup in 2016 and a “terrorist organization.” The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch or terrorist activity.
Today’s Zaman, a sister newspaper to Turkey’s best-selling newspaper Zaman, was closed down by the government in the aftermath of the coup attempt in addition to dozens of other media organizations due to their links to the movement.
Both Swedish and Finnish government officials said they will continue to respect national and international laws regarding Turkey’s extradition requests and that the decision for extraditions will be up to independent authorities and the courts.
Keneş was also targeted last month by the pro-government Sabah daily, which revealed his home address and secretly taken photos in Stockholm.
The journalist left Turkey in the aftermath of the coup attempt to avoid a government-led post-coup crackdown targeting critical journalists as well as non-loyalist citizens.