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Sweden bows to Turkish demands and agrees to extradite fraud suspect amid NATO bid

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Sweden has yielded to Turkey’s demand and agreed to extradite a fraud suspect after Ankara threatened to freeze Stockholm’s bid to join NATO’s military alliance.

It is the first known extradition since Turkey threatened to block applications from Sweden and neighboring Finland earlier this year.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO in May, setting aside their longstanding stance of military non-alignment.

It was a major shift in security arrangements for the two countries after neighboring Russia launched the war against Ukraine in late February — turning public opinion in the two Scandinavian countries in favor of joining the alliance.

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to block the two nations from NATO membership unless they meet various demands, including the extradition of people Ankara considers “terrorists.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured at a NATO summit in Spain in June) has threatened to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO unless they meet various demands, including the extradition of people Ankara considers 'terrorists'. .

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured at a NATO summit in Spain in June) has threatened to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO unless they meet various demands, including the extradition of people Ankara considers ‘terrorists’. .

Erdogan accuses the two countries of being havens for Kurdish militants, notably highlighting the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The man being extradited was identified in Swedish court documents as Okan Kale and was convicted in Turkey of credit card fraud in 2013 and 2016.

He applied for asylum in Sweden in 2011, but his application was rejected. In 2014 he was granted refugee status in Italy.

Kale’s name is on a list published in Turkish media of people Ankara wants to extradite from Sweden.

However, the Ministry of Justice does not want to say whether the man is on a list drawn up by Turkey.

It noted that Ankara had requested his extradition in 2021 — long before Stockholm’s application to join the North Atlantic alliance in May.

“This is a normal, routine matter,” Justice Department spokeswoman Angelica Vallgren told AFP. “The extradition request was received last year.”

Kale has been in Swedish custody since December 2021.

He insists he was wrongly convicted for being a convert to Christianity, refusing to do military service and having Kurdish roots, SVT said.

In an agreement signed by Sweden and Finland at a NATO summit in Madrid in late June, the two countries agreed to investigate Turkish extradition requests “quickly and thoroughly.”

Erdogan said Sweden had made a ‘promise’ to extradite ’73 terrorists’.

“This is a normal routine thing. The person in question is a Turkish citizen and has been convicted of fraud crimes in Turkey in 2013 and 2016,” Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson told Reuters in a text message.

“The Supreme Court has examined the matter as usual and concluded that there are no impediments to extradition,” he said.

A Justice Ministry spokesman declined to confirm whether the man was on the list of people Turkey has demanded to extradite.

The countries sought NATO membership earlier this year to ensure their security in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offensive in Ukraine.

Sweden and Finland (shown in green) applied to join NATO in May, setting aside their longstanding stance of military non-alignment after Russia invaded Ukraine in February

Sweden and Finland (shown in green) applied to join NATO in May, setting aside their longstanding stance of military non-alignment after Russia invaded Ukraine in February

Sweden and Finland (shown in green) applied to join NATO in May, setting aside their longstanding stance of military non-alignment after Russia invaded Ukraine in February

The rules of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization require the agreement of all its 30 existing members before Finland and Sweden can officially join the alliance, which is expected to be in the coming months.

The candidatures of the two prosperous Northern European countries have won ratification from more than half of NATO member states in the roughly three months since the two signed up.

It marks one of the fastest expansions of the pact of mutual defense between the United States and democratic allies in Europe in its 73-year history.

The agreement from Sweden comes after US President Joe Biden formally welcomed Finland and Sweden to join the NATO alliance on Tuesday.

He signed the ratification instruments that the US formally supported to the Nordic countries entering into the Mutual Defense Pact.

“In their pursuit of joining NATO, Finland and Sweden are making a sacred promise that an attack on one is an attack on all,” Biden said at the signing, calling the partnership the “indispensable alliance.”

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden officially welcomed Finland and Sweden to join the NATO alliance.  Pictured: Biden signs the instruments of ratification for the Accession Protocols to the North Atlantic Treaty for the Republic of Finland and the Kingdom of Sweden

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden officially welcomed Finland and Sweden to join the NATO alliance.  Pictured: Biden signs the instruments of ratification for the Accession Protocols to the North Atlantic Treaty for the Republic of Finland and the Kingdom of Sweden

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden officially welcomed Finland and Sweden to join the NATO alliance. Pictured: Biden signs the instruments of ratification for the Accession Protocols to the North Atlantic Treaty for the Republic of Finland and the Kingdom of Sweden

The US became the 23rd ally to approve NATO membership for the two countries. Biden said he spoke to the heads of both nations before signing the ratification and urged remaining NATO members to complete their own ratification process “as soon as possible.”

The Senate last week approved the two once-nonaligned nations joining the alliance in a rare 95-1 vote, which Biden says shows the world that “the United States of America can still do great things” with a sense of political unity.

US state and defense officials view the two countries as “security suppliers”, thereby strengthening NATO’s defense position in the Baltic states in particular.

Finland is expected to exceed NATO’s defense spending target of 2% of gross domestic product by 2022, and Sweden has committed to meeting the 2% target.

Biden encouraged their accession and welcomed the heads of government of the two countries to the White House in May, side by side with US support.

The US and its European allies have united in a new-found partnership in the face of Putin’s military invasion, as well as the Russian leader’s sweeping statements this year condemning NATO, veiled memories of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and historic Russia’s claims to the territory of many of its neighbors.