Syrian Kurd leader set free in exchange for promise not to leave the EU

By bne IntelliNews February 28, 2018

The Czech Republic became more deeply embroiled in a diplomatic quarrel with Turkey on February 27 when a Prague court released Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim after he was detained on February 24 on a Turkish Interpol warrant.

Turkey had officially asked the Czech Republic to extradite Muslim and take him into pre-trial detention. “There was a motion for pre-trial detention, but this hasn’t occurred,”  a spokeswoman of the Prague regional court Marketa Puci told bne IntelliNews. The court instead accepted Muslim’s pledge not to leave the EU.

Turkey’s ambassador to Prague Ahmet Necati Bigali expressed “sadness” with the decision. “It is not befitting friendly relations between the Czech Republic and Turkey. We will convey to our counterparts that the decision does not befit our Nato alliance and the decision might mean supporting terror,” he told Turkish broadcaster Haberturk.

Turkey's Justice Minister, Abdulhamit Gul, labelled the decision as politically motivated and a “mistake” and added that Turkey would “never accept this decision”.

Ankara is afraid that Muslim can flee. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said: “The international community is sometimes taking steps in favour of terrorism. These decisions are nothing new for us, given the attitude of EU member states to these issues.” Bozdag added that the decision is contrary to international law and will have an impact on relations with the Czech Republic. 

EU diplomats and leaders have criticised the alleged misuse of extradition requests by Turkey and have accused the Turkish government of sliding towards the creation of an authoritarian state, citing the authorities' undermining of basic human rights while in pursuit of the Gulenist network that Ankara insists was behind the failed putsch two years ago.

Muslim is a co-chair of the PYD, the main component of the coalition that runs autonomous parts of northern Syria.  Ankara regards the PYD as an extension of the outlawed Kurdish PKK, which has waged a three-decade-long insurgency in Turkey. Its current military offensive in the Afrin region of northern Syria is aimed at clearing Kurds that it sees as a threat from a Turkish border area.

Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Martin Stropnicky will call his Turkish counterpart on February 28. Until the conversation, no further comments will be issued, said MFA spokeswoman Michaela Lagronova.

Turkey now has to deliver to the Ministry of Justice an official, legal request for extradition within 40 days. The Ministry of Justice is expecting this in a few days. The next step is for a court to examine the permissibility of extradition. The last word, however, is with the Minister of Justice, meaning the Czech government cannot duck the issue.

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