Sweden’s top court has blocked the extradition of two people wanted by Turkey for involvement in the faith-based Gülen movement, saying their actions are not considered a crime in the Scandinavian country, Agence France-Presse reported.
The ruling comes just days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced he was ready to allow Sweden to join the military alliance.
However on Wednesday, Erdoğan said Turkey would not be able to ratify Sweden’s NATO candidacy until at least October, when the Turkish parliament is due to re-open after its summer break.
In Sweden, the government makes the final decision on extradition requests but cannot grant a request to another state if the Supreme Court rules against it.
The two cases concerned individuals wanted for being members of the Gülen movement, which Erdoğan accuses of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch.
According to the court, the evidence provided by Turkey was that they had both downloaded the ByLock encrypted messaging app used by members of movement, which Turkey has designated as a terrorist group.
“In one case extradition is requested for the enforcement of a prison sentence and in the other for prosecution. In its opinion to the government, the Supreme Court has explained that there are obstacles to extradition in both cases,” the court said in a statement.
The court said the extraditions could not go forward because downloading the app would not by itself be enough to convict someone of participating in a terrorist organization under Swedish law.
It also added that the individuals had been granted refugee status in Sweden and would risk persecution if they were returned to Turkey.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO member states that have yet to ratify Sweden’s bid, which requires unanimous ratification.
Erdoğan had until earlier this week blocked Sweden, accusing Stockholm of being a haven for “terrorists.”
Cracking down on outlawed Kurdish groups and approving the extradition of dozens of suspects it believed were linked to the failed 2016 coup attempt had been key demands from Turkey.
In December, Sweden’s Supreme Court also refused to extradite Turkish journalist in exile Bülent Keneş. The extradition of political dissidents regarded as “terrorists” by the Turkish government was a key demand of Ankara to approve of Sweden’s NATO bid.
There were “several hindrances” to sending back the former editor-in-chief of the now-closed English language Today’s Zaman daily, whom Turkey accuses of being involved in the 2016 attempt to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the court said.
Some of the accusations against Keneş are not crimes in Sweden, which along with the political nature of the case and his refugee status, made extradition impossible, the court added.
Keneş is the only person Erdoğan has identified by name among dozens of people Ankara wants extradited in exchange for approving Sweden’s NATO membership.