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Turkish FM slams Sweden’s refusal to extradite journalist Keneş

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Turkey on Tuesday slammed Sweden’s refusal to extradite a journalist that Ankara has demanded in exchange for its ratification of Stockholm’s NATO membership, Agence France-Presse reported.

Turkey, which has accused Sweden and Finland of harboring political dissidents whom it labels “terrorists,” has held back on ratifying their NATO applications despite reaching an agreement with Sweden and Finland in June.

The now-closed Today’s Zaman newspaper’s former editor-in-chief Bülent Keneş was the only person on Turkey’s extradition list President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan mentioned specifically by name during a news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Ankara in November.

Sweden’s Supreme Court cited the risk of Turkey’s “persecution based on this person’s political beliefs” when it rejected Turkey’s extradition request for Keneş on Monday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu lashed out at the decision in brief comments to reporters.

“The rejection of our request for the extradition of Bülent Keneş is a very negative development,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Çavuşoğlu stressed that Sweden’s extradition earlier this month of one man suspected of membership of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was insufficient to win Turkey’s approval.

A Kurdish man, named Mahmut Tat, was sent to jail in İstanbul earlier this month after his extradition from Sweden. He fled to Sweden in 2015, but Stockholm rejected his asylum request. Tat was not on Turkey’s extradition list.

“If they expect that they can return one person and then close this affair, this is not realistic,” Çavuşoğlu said.

“We no longer want to hear good words from Sweden and Finland, we want to see concrete steps.”

Sweden and Finland broke with decades of military non-alignment and decided to apply for NATO membership in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey and Hungary remain the only NATO member states to have failed to ratify the Nordic countries’ applications.

Çavuşoğlu said he would have more discussions about the dispute during a visit to Ankara on Thursday by Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom.

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