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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Turkey submits extradition request for Kurdish leader Salih Muslim

The former PYD leader was arrested by Czech authorities on Saturday

Former PYD chief Salih Muslim was arrested by Czech authorities on Saturday.
Former PYD chief Salih Muslim was arrested by Czech authorities on Saturday.

Turkey have filed an official extradition request for a leading Kurdish-Syrian just days after he was arrested by police in the Czech Republic.

The extradition request for Salih Muslim, a former head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, is now reportedly under negotiation by the countries' justice ministries, Turkish state media has reported.

Muslim was replaced as PYD leader in 2017, but Turkish officials consider the outfit to be closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a banned group that has run a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Mr Muslim was arrested in a Prague hotel on Saturday by Czech police, and a formal extradition request was submitted by Turkey for Mr Muslim on Monday. Turkish officials say he is due to appear in court on today.

He was in Prague at the invitation of the Czech government for a closed-door international conference on peacebuilding in the Middle East alongside senior French and Swedish officials.

Ahmed Muslim, a PYD representative in the UK, told The National “Turkey’s case is unlawful. They are claiming he was part of an attack in Ankara, in fact they are trying to demonise the PYD. They [Turkey] are trying everything to penalise the PYD, who want a democratic solution to the war in Syria. This is a nightmare for Turkey, they want the war to keep going”.

Mr Muslim also hit out at the Czech authorities. “They invited him, he was their guest, they were supposed to be taking responsibility for his security. We wonder if they were acting as Turkish police, or Czech police”.

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Just two days before his arrest, Mr Muslim was added to the so called Red List - a wanted list of Turkey’s "most wanted terrorists", and a bounty of almost $1 million was placed on his head by Ankara.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bekir Bozdag said “Turkey expects Salih Muslim - who is a leader of a terrorist group and is still actively plotting terrorist attacks against Turkey - to be extradited to our country in line with legal requirements between our countries".

The terrorist attacks referenced in by Mr Bozdag, and in the extradition request, refer to a 2016 bombing in central Ankara that left 37 dead.

Turkish President Recap Tayip Erdogan said “Our hope is that the Czech Republic will extradite him to Turkey and justice will be served. When he is extradited, they will see how justice is implemented.”

Though the PYD, and its armed wing the People's Protection Units (YPG) have received significant western-backing throughout the fight against ISIL, the Turkey-based PKK are designated a terrorist organisation by many western states, including the UK and the US. Though PYD officials insist the organisations are separate, analysts have labelled them “virtually indistinguishable”.