Family members of a Kurdish man who was extradited from Sweden to Turkey earlier this month have claimed that he was wrongfully accused of terrorist links and “sacrificed” to the interests of the two countries, the Rudaw news website reported over the weekend.
Mahmut Tat was jailed by a Turkish court on Dec. 3 following his arrival in İstanbul the previous night. Sweden had detained him on Nov. 22 and extradited him on Dec. 2 after keeping him in police custody for 10 days.
Tat, who was sentenced to six years, 10 months in prison in Turkey on charges of membership in the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in 2015, fled to Sweden, where his request for asylum was denied.
Designated as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, the PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Tat’s family argued that he had to flee Turkey because he was wrongfully sentenced based on the statements of an informant, adding that they were “shocked” to learn of his extradition from Sweden.
Underlining that it was “unrealistic” to label Mahmut Tat as a “terrorist,” the family said a retrial would reveal the truth about his situation and that he should be allowed to confront the informant if necessary.
Mustafa Tat expressed disappointment over his brother’s recent extradition, stating that he was chosen as a victim and sacrificed to the interests of Sweden and Turkey due to the NATO agreement between the two countries.
Turkey has accused Finland and Sweden, in particular, of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish groups it deems “terrorists” as well as some political dissidents, and has refrained from ratifying their NATO bids despite an agreement in Madrid in June.
Although the Turkish government welcomed the extradition of Tat, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu noted last week that he wasn’t on the list of political dissidents whose extradition is demanded by Turkey, adding that they should also be extradited.
Mustafa Tat further said that his brother, who has throat cancer and has undergone two operations, was having health problems behind bars because he wasn’t allowed to take his medication.
He added that his family had suffered at the hands of both the outlawed PKK and the Turkish government since his father Ahmet Tat was previously abducted by the terrorist group and held for almost a week in 1997 on claims that he had provided information on them to the government.
Tat’s extradition comes at a time when the Turkish government has launched airstrikes on militant Kurdish groups in northern Syria including the PKK and is considering a ground operation there. As a result, anti-Kurdish sentiment in the country is on the rise.