In Novel Twist to NATO Saga, Sweden Brings Up Criminals 'Hiding' in Turkey
05:31 GMT 01.12.2022 (Updated: 05:50 GMT 01.12.2022)
As of now, Turkey remains the only NATO nation to block the historic membership bids filed by Sweden and Finland in May, accusing the Nordic nations of supporting and harboring members of Kurdish organizations it labels as terrorist.
While Turkey demands that Sweden and Finland hand over a number of Kurds before the countries are approved as members of NATO, Stockholm has reversed the tables by claiming that about a dozen hardened criminals are hiding in Turkey.
According to Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson
, this is a serious issue that must be addressed.
“People who are hiding from Swedish justice must be brought to Sweden,” Kristersson told the Nordic country’s media. “There are criminals who can be hiding in Turkey, who should be prosecuted in Sweden, so the more cooperation we can have that can bring criminals to justice, the better it is,” he added, stressing that he had raised this issue in a recent conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
According to Swedish national police chief Anders Thornberg, in the past it was common for Swedish criminals to take refuge in Spain. But for some time now, not least due to close cooperation with Madrid and Europol, the criminal suspects have sought their way eastward to Turkey.
“We are having a discussion with the Turkish police and our government on this matter. We also have a contact person in Turkey who works on the issue. It is extremely important to send the message that the long arm of the law reaches everywhere,” Thornberg said.
According to Swedish media, one of the criminals from Sweden, wanted internationally by both Stockholm and the FBI, among other things, for drug crimes, described Turkey in encrypted chats as a “gangster’s paradise.”
The problem with Turkey, according to Swedish criminologists, is that criminal suspects can become citizens there, which means increased protection. While both Sweden and Turkey have acceded to the 1957 European Extradition Convention, both have the right to halt the extradition of their own citizens. No formal extradition agreement between the two countries exists.
21 November 2022, 07:10 GMT
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom emphasized that the recent agreement between Helsinki, Stockholm and Ankara will make it easier for the Swedish justice system to gain access to criminals on the run in Turkey.
Finland and Sweden’s dual NATO bid, filed in May. put a formal end to decades of non-alignment marred by increasing cooperation with the US-led alliance. Turkey remains the only NATO nation to block the bids, accusing the Nordic nations of supporting and harboring members of Kurdish organizations it labels as terrorist. Stockholm and Helsinki were even provided with a list of people Ankara wants extradited — a sensitive issue for Sweden which sees itself as a champion of human rights. Stockholm’s apparent willingness to accommodate
Ankara — the Swedish government lifted the ban on arms exports to Turkey introduced over Ankara’s engagement in Syria against Kurdish militias and distanced itself from the Kurdish organizations it previously supported — has come under fire from both the opposition and numerous human rights groups.