Recep Zarakulu has been an enemy of the Turkish state for half a century. After the military coup of 1971, the 74-year-old appeared in court for the first time – due to contacts with Amnesty International.
Zarakulu later co-founded the Turkish Association for Human Rights and published books on the Armenian Genocide and the Kurdish Question as a publisher.
Today, he is on a list of 40 alleged „terrorists” whose extradition Turkey has made a condition of Finland and Sweden agreeing to NATO membership. The Zaracolo case shows why Turkey has so far been unable to convince the West of its demands.
Finnish and Swedish negotiators spoke for the first time about the NATO dispute with Turkish government officials in Ankara on Wednesday. Then Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for the Turkish presidential office and advisor to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spoke about the positive attitude of the Nordic countries towards Turkey’s demand to lift the arms embargo imposed since 2019.
But Turkey is not satisfied with that. She is asking for tangible proof from Helsinki and Stockholm that they are moving away from The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is run as a terrorist organization. They also insist on handing over opponents of the Turkish government.
Zaracolo has lived in Sweden for ten years
According to Ankara, 28 people in Sweden and 12 in Finland on the Turkish list are dangerous enemies of the state and can be attributed to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, far-left groups or the movement of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told the Haberturk news channel that Turkey does not want to hear excuses such as referring to EU rules. Turkey’s demands must be met — even if Finland and Sweden have to change their laws to allow for deliveries.
Zaracolo is watching developments from Sweden, where he has lived for nearly ten years. He told exiled radio station Ozguruz Radio that he did not believe he would be extradited.
Sweden’s highest court had refused to extradite him in 2019. Contrary to what is happening in Turkey, Zarakulu said, the government in Sweden has to abide by court decisions. Ankara might assume that the government in Stockholm can act like the Turkish government in its own country: by pressuring the judiciary to enforce its will.
Two years ago, I started new investigations
The Zaracolo case illustrates how far apart European countries and Turkey are in understanding the law. A human rights activist in Turkey should not be imprisoned for using or advocating violence.
He was convicted of giving a lecture at a legitimate Kurdish party. According to the Turkish judiciary, he was convicted of supporting a terrorist organization.
Two years ago, the Turkish Prosecutor General’s Office launched new investigations against him: In an article in the left-wing newspaper „Evrensel”, Zarakulu compared Erdogan to former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, who was executed in 1961 after a military coup. . Prosecutors accused Zaracolo of calling for the article’s overturn to be violent.
Zarakulu said in the interview that there was no legal basis for extradition – after talks in Ankara on Wednesday, Erdogan’s advisor Kalin said the exact opposite: there is no legal basis for refusing to extradite „terrorists”.
There is also a deceased person on the list
Bulent Kenes, the former editor-in-chief of a newspaper affiliated with the Gülen movement, is also on Turkey’s extradition list. He is accused of involvement in the 2016 coup attempt. Another opponent of the government, Kurdish politician and journalist Mehmet Sirak Bilgin, is on Turkey’s extradition list but died seven years ago.
the list It could potentially serve as a bargaining chip in modern poker, which Ankara could give up in exchange for concessions. The most important thing for Turkey is to end the arms embargo imposed on European countries. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has made it clear that her country does not send weapons or money to terrorist organizations.
The Turkish government accuses Sweden of supporting the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Syria.
Erdogan’s veto threat prevents Finland and Sweden, which are seeking NATO protection because of Russia’s war against Ukraine, from easily joining NATO.
Turkey faces a lack of understanding on the part of its allies. Only Russia is benefiting from the conflict, the German ambassador to Turkey, Jürgen Schulz, said at a security conference in Istanbul. Christoph Heusgen, president of the Munich Security Conference, said at the event that Turkey could better solve its problems with Finland and Sweden after they joined NATO more than before.