Sweden agreed on Thursday to extradite a Turkish national that is wanted by Turkey's government, in a bid to acquire Ankara’s approval to join the US-led military alliance NATO.
This comes a day after Finland joined NATO, becoming its 31st member. Sweden and Finland requested to join the military alliance in the wake of Russia’s operation in Ukraine due to apprehension that the war would expand into Europe. Despite Stockholm’s agreement with Ankara to extradite the alleged associate of a Kurdish group linked to a failed 2016 coup attempt, Sweden rejected Turkey's request to extradite more suspects.
Turkey has classified Sweden as a "safe haven" for Kurdish militants for years, as they have previously provided entry to members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Ankara deems as a terror organization alongside the US and the UK. Turkey holds the PKK responsible for the November 2022 Istanbul bombing.
Last year, the soon-to-be-extradited Turkish national, Omer Altun, was sentenced to 15 years by Turkiye’s judiciary. However, Sweden considers his convictions to be "equivalent of fraud."
Sweden’s justice ministry claims that the extradition was agreed upon on the condition that Altun would be granted a fair retrial. Sweden’s Supreme Court approved the extradition on March 30.
"The government shares the Supreme Court’s assessment that there is nothing blocking the extradition of Omer Altun to Turkey," the supreme court said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously set strict conditions for backing the joint bids Stockholm and Helsinki, demanding that Sweden extradite dozens of mainly Kurdish suspects that Ankara either accuses of "terrorism" or of involvement in a failed 2016 coup.
However, after a group of Swedish nationals hung an effigy of Erdogan up for display in a public space, and a far-right politician burned a Quran outside of Ankara’s embassy in Stockholm, it further jeopardized Sweden’s attempt to join NATO.