Lady Justice’s Sword of Damocles: Erdogan puts pressure on Stockholm after Sweden’s Supreme Court prevents extradition

21st Jul 2022

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened that Turkey may still block Swedish membership of NATO following reports of a Swedish Supreme Court decision blocking the extradition of Yilmaz Aytan.

Aytan, who ran a school in Afghansitan founded by the Gülen movement, has had permanent residency in Sweden since 2018. He requested asylum following Turkish attempts to arrest him for his association with Fethullah Gülen. Swedish media report that he has since been granted refugee status.

Turkish authorities are seeking his extradition, accusing him of “forming / leading an armed terrorist organisation”. Ankara cites his work for the schools linked to Gülen, his bank account in Bank Asya (which Turkey links with Gülen) and his use of the ByLock smartphone app as evidence of his involvement with the movement.

On 15 July 2022 the Swedish paper Dagens Juridik reported that the Swedish Supreme court refused Turkey’s request to extradite Aytan, finding that his actions did not constitute a crime under Swedish law and that he faces the risk of political persecution if extradited. The prosecutor, tasked with reviewing the Turkish request, claimed that it was politically motivated.

The case forms part of a number of such extraditions Turkey has demanded be reviewed after the 28 June NATO memorandum, in which Turkey agreed to Swedish accession to the organisation in return for “Sweden [addressing] Turkiye’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly”. Although the memorandum does not state that FETO (the Turkish description of the Gülenist movement) is a terrorist organisation it does set out that “Sweden will not provide support to … the organisation described as FETO in Turkiye.” Turkey has included so-called FETO members in its list of individuals it is seeking to extradite.

On 18 July Erdogan threatened that Turkey will “will freeze the process [of NATO accession] if these countries do not take the necessary steps to fulfil our conditions” further adding that “We see that especially Sweden does not give a good impression in this regard. Turkiye’s stance about this issue is very clear, the rest is their business”.

Jasvinder Nakhwal
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7822 7753

Nick Vamos
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7822 7776