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Sweden to extradite Turkish man after NATO deal

Officials declined to say whether the move was part of an agreement to secure Turkey’s approval to join NATO

Sweden is set to extradite a man to Turkey who is wanted for fraud, the first such case since Stockholm agreed to deport dozens of people wanted by Ankara as it seeks Turkish approval to join the NATO alliance.

The Swedish Justice Ministry announced the decision on Thursday, with the man identified in court documents as 35-year-old Okan Kale, a Turkish national charged for fraud at least twice in his home country. 

“This is a normal routine matter. The person in question is a Turkish citizen and convicted of fraud offenses in Turkey in 2013 and 2016,” Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson told Reuters. “The Supreme Court has examined the issue as usual and concluded that there are no obstacles to extradition.”

While the ministry declined to say whether the man was among a group of people sought for extradition by Turkey – part of a deal to secure Ankara’s green light before joining the NATO bloc – a list of the wanted individuals published in Turkish media features Kale’s name.

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Kale reportedly moved to Sweden in 2016 and was granted residence and work permits after marrying a local woman, but was arrested last year after Turkey reached out to Swedish authorities through Interpol. According to Swedish broadcaster SVT, Kale maintains his innocence and claims he was wrongfully sentenced in Turkey because he is a Christian convert, evaded mandatory military service and has Kurdish heritage.

However, speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that both Sweden and Finland, which is also looking to join the US-led military collective, “did not deliver their commitments,” urging for “concrete steps” on the extraditions. 

“They have proposed to hold a meeting in August, and we will hopefully hold our first meeting on August 26,” he added.

During a major NATO summit held in Madrid in June, both Stockholm and Helsinki said they would meet Ankara’s demands to extradite dozens of people living on their soil, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later declaring that Sweden had “promised” to deport “73 terrorists.” Besides Kale, no Turkish nationals have been extradited from Sweden since. 

Turkey had previously voiced objections to either country joining the alliance. Among other complaints, Ankara claimed they harbored members of alleged terrorist groups, and has reiterated its reservations even after striking deals with the two Nordic states, leaving the fate of their membership applications somewhat unclear. 

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