Sweden’s Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for the government to extradite a man supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to Turkey, a key demand by Ankara to ratify Stockholm’s NATO membership, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the newspaper Aftonbladet.
The ruling means it’s now up to Sweden’s government to decide whether to extradite the man, the newspaper Aftonbladet reported, adding that he would be the first PKK supporter extradited by Sweden to Turkey.
In Sweden, the government makes the final decision on extradition requests but cannot grant a request by another state if the Supreme Court rules against it.
According to Aftonbladet, the court reached the decision last week. It came just as the two countries are due to discuss Sweden’s stalled NATO application after the re-election of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The 35-year-old man was sentenced in 2014 to four years and seven months in a Turkish prison for transporting a bag containing cannabis, the newspaper said.
He was released on parole and moved to Sweden but was arrested in August last year following a request from Turkish prosecutors who want him to serve the rest of his sentence.
But the newspaper said the man claims the real reason he is being sought by Turkish authorities is his affiliation with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and for having shown support for the PKK, a separatist militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the US, EU, and Turkey.
In the decision, according to Aftonbladet, the court noted that it had asked the Turkish prosecutor if there were ongoing investigations or charges against the man regarding “propagating for a terrorist organization” or “insulting the Turkish president,” which the prosecutor denied.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO member states yet to ratify Sweden’s bid — which requires unanimous ratification.
Erdoğan has so far blocked Sweden, accusing Stockholm of being a haven for “terrorists,” especially members of the PKK.
Cracking down on extremist groups and approving the extraditions of dozens of suspects it believes are linked to a failed 2016 coup attempt and a decades-long Kurdish fight for an independent state have been key demands from Turkey.
Ending two centuries of neutrality and military non-alignment, Sweden and neighboring Finland announced bids to join NATO in May 2022 in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
While Sweden’s bid still faces opposition, Finland became the 31st member of NATO on April 4.