‘Support for terrorism’: Turkey condemns release of Syrian Kurdish leader


A Czech court’s decision to release a Syrian Kurdish leader wanted by Turkey has highlighted another fault line between Ankara and European countries.

Turkey was seeking a swift extradition of the former Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) co-leader Salih Muslim after his arrest earlier this week in Prague.

Turkey accuses Muslim of being involved in a series of bloody terror attacks, and Ankara was furious that he was released on condition that he stay within EU territory.

Muslim, a Syrian citizen trained as a chemical engineer at Istanbul Technical University, was named on Turkey’s “most sought-after terrorists” list with a $1 million reward offered for his capture.

Muslim has been based in Europe for several years and has been conducting diplomatic meetings around the continent through PYD offices in France, Sweden and the Czech Republic. According to Russian news agency Sputnik, he also has a resident’s permit for Finland.

Ankara considers the PYD a Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by the EU, US and Turkey.

Should Muslim be extradited to Turkey, he would be the second leading Kurdish political figure to be caught since the arrest of PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan in 1999.

Criticizing the court’s decision, Turkish government spokesperson Bekir Bozdag said the ruling “amounts to support for terrorism.”
Meanwhile, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said Turkey expects compensation from Czech authorities for the “mistake” made by letting Muslim walk free.

Experts say the decision highlighted Europe and Turkey’s diverging policies on counter-terrorism and Syria.

Nicholas Danforth, a senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Project, said the ruling shows the extent to which disagreements over the Kurdish issue and rule of law will continue to bedevil Turkey’s relations with Europe, even when both sides want to improve the relationship.

Announcing that “Turkey will pursue Muslim wherever he goes,” Ankara also issued a diplomatic note to Prague.

Meanwhile, claims that Ankara would swap two Czech nationals held in custody in Turkey over terrorisms charges have been also been rejected by government officials.

Turkey and the Czech Republic are signatories to the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Extradition that provides for extradition between signatory parties of persons wanted for criminal proceedings. However, there is no bilateral agreement between the two countries in this field, while Muslim is not a Turkish national.

The Czech Republic does not list the list PYD as a terror group.
“It is not the first time that a European country has rejected Ankara’s request to extradite a criminal,” Nursin Atesoglu Guney, dean of economics, administrative and social sciences at Bahcesehir Cyprus University, told Arab News.

“For instance, Belgium has been a haven for many members of Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party, another left-wing terror group, and Brussels repeatedly ignored Ankara’s demands for their extradition, as in the case of Fehriye Erdal, who killed a prominent Turkish businessman and fled to Belgium,” she said.

According to Guney, such rulings show the EU’s hesitant approach to fighting terrorism.

“The only positive side of this release decision is to send a warning to all other wanted PYD members that they will not have a free hand in Europe due to arrest warrants issued for them,” she said.

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