Sweden extradites Kurd to Turkiye in boost for NATO bid

Sweden extradites Kurd to Turkiye in boost for NATO bid
Short Url
Updated 08 June 2023

Sweden extradites Kurd to Turkiye in boost for NATO bid

Sweden extradites Kurd to Turkiye in boost for NATO bid
  • Ankara has accused Stockholm of supporting terrorism by hosting Kurdish dissidents
  • PKK supporter Mehmet Kokulu to serve remainder of jail term over drug trafficking charges

LONDON: Swedish judges have approved the extradition of a PKK supporter to Turkiye, which could see Ankara end its veto of the Scandinavian country’s bid to join NATO, The Times reported.

Mehmet Kokulu, a Kurd, found refuge in Sweden after serving part of a prison sentence in Turkiye for trafficking marijuana.

He was a member of the youth wing of HDP, a political party that has been accused by the Turkish government of acting as a front for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkiye, the EU and NATO.

Kokulu has also been an active critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on social media.

Sweden hosts about 100,000 members of the Kurdish minority, many of them supporters of the PKK. Turkiye has long accused Sweden of providing support for terrorism and has blocked its NATO application as a result.

But the move to extradite Kokulu could see Turkiye change its position, with Erdogan last year sending a list of names of alleged terror supporters to Sweden, demanding their extradition.

Sweden and its neighbor, Finland, have maintained decades-long neutrality regarding NATO, but following the Ukraine invasion, both sought to join the alliance.

Finland was granted membership in April but Sweden’s bid has been frustrated by both internal divisions over neutrality and its support for Kurdish dissidents, as well as Turkiye’s veto.

Kokulu, who was released early from prison on parole in Turkiye, said his extradition was “political” and should be blocked by the European Convention on Human Rights.

But Turkiye has maintained that Kokulu should complete his prison sentence for drug offenses and that authorities do not intend to press charges over his alleged terror links.

Sweden’s supreme court gave its approval for the extradition after finding there was insufficient evidence to show it was politically motivated.

Last year at a NATO summit, Sweden pledged to resolve the larger dispute over Kurdish extraditions without altering its policies.