Zarakolu: Nothing will change, decisions are taken by courts here, not by government

News About Turkey - NAT
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After Sweden and Finland signed a memorandum with Turkey on their NATO accession bids on June 28, Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said that Sweden and Finland should fulfill the requirements stemming from Turkey’s previous applications and announced that Turkey would request the extradition of 12 people from Finland and 21 from Sweden.

Turkey had been opposing to both Scandinavian countries’ NATO membership, especially that of Sweden, citing “concerns about terrorism”.

As reported by the state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) on May 19, 2022, Turkey wants to have the following people extradited: Writer Mehmet Sıraç Bilgin, Aysel Alhan, Aziz Turan, writer and publisher Ragıp Zarakolu, Halef Tek, Harun Tokak, Bülent Keneş, Yılmaz Ayten and Levent Kenez.

Cited in this news report in connection with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) or the “FETÖ”, which is held accountable for the coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, writer and publisher Ragıp Zarakolu has been living in Sweden since 2012. He has been facing years in prison in a series of trials in Turkey over his publishing and writing activities.

‘The bargaining with NATO is an absurdity’

In the light of these recent developments, we have spoken to Ragıp Zarakolu, who thinks that the NATO bargaining, which Turkey says it has finalized its own way, “can be explained as an absurdity”.

Protesting the recent developments, the 74-year-old writer and publisher Zarakolu says, “Drafting a list about the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland has reminded me of the slavery era of old times.”

Ankara wants a ‘ransom’ from Stockholm

Explaining what he means by “slavery”, Zarakolu says:

In those old times, prisoners of war were in the status of slaves and ransom was paid to save them. So, I perceive this as some kind of request for ransom. But above all else, this is an incident of harassment. Because even though they know that they will be unable to get any results from this, this is just for harassing the people who are in exile outside the country. And the reason why these people are abroad are the lawsuits filed against them in Turkey.

Zarakolu does not dismiss the fact that “the Republic of Turkey legally has the right to make an application based on the existing files,” adding, “But, it also has the obligation to respect the laws of other countries.”

Ragıp Zarakolu refers to the laws in Sweden in explaining why the legal and political status of himself and the other exiles in the country cannot be subjected to a “request for extradition” to Turkey:

“These files arrive in Sweden or in other states. They are evaluated. The files are evaluated not by the governments here, but by the courts based on the relevant legal rules. If it is a convincing file and equipped with evidence, the necessary is done from time to time.

“There were also instances when criminal offenders were extradited from Sweden to Turkey and this has never been an issue of debate.”

‘Turkey abuses the Interpol mechanism’

Ragıp Zarakolu says that Turkey “has been declaring dissidents as criminals for political purposes and applying to the Interpol’s extradition mechanism to make a request for their extradition” to Turkey:

This mechanism also got into the picture for me a few years ago. A request was made via Interpol. This request was referred to the Supreme Court here; in the end, the Supreme Court in Sweden, which is in the capacity of the Constitutional Court here, examined the file and ruled that the file should be rejected ‘on the grounds that the indicated offenses were about freedom of thought and the related acts did not fall within the scope of criminal acts according to the Swedish law’.

‘They are not as authoritarian as Turkey wants’

Referring to the justice system in Turkey, Zarakolu notes that “not taking court rulings into account has unfortunately been a habit in Turkey.”

Recalling the cases of jailed businessperson Osman Kavala and jailed politician Selahattin Demirtaş, Zarakolu says, “The government of Turkey wants other governments to do the same thing. Unfortunately – on the part of Erdoğan -, there are no such authoritarian regimes here. Court rulings are above all else. There is already nothing that the government can do about it. The request for extradition has been rejected.”

‘They also want to harass Sweden’

According to Zarakolu, who refers to “the bargaining almost in the form of demanding a ransom”, the last attempt of Turkey to veto the NATO applications of Sweden and Finland “has actually been an incident of harassment directed at the government of Sweden as well.”

He says, “Sweden has given the same answer again: ‘We will examine the files and do the necessary according to our own law.” Zarakolu thinks that this is nothing other than returning to square one.

To him, “even though the last answer of Sweden has been portrayed as a success, this is not a new answer, but the reiteration of the previous one.”

Concluding his remarks, Ragıp Zarakolu also answers our question about the attitude of the leftist and democrat circles in Sweden to these recent developments. “There is criticism that they have remained passive in the face of Turkey’s harassment,” he answers. (TY/AEK/SD)

By: Tuğçe Yılmaz


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