Turkish deputy PM calls decision to free Muslim, despite Ankara's extradition request, a move 'in support of terror'.
Turkey has accused Czech authorities of “backing terrorism” after the release of a prominent Syrian Kurdish former leader, who said that he would cooperate with the court there during the judicial process.
The court in Prague freed Salih Muslim, a former leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, despite Turkey’s official request for him to be extradited.
Muslim was arrested in the Czech capital on Saturday at Turkey’s request, according to Turkish officials.
“This decision is very clearly a decision in support of terrorism,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters in Ankara on Tuesday. “This decision will negatively impact relations between Turkey and the Czech Republic,” he warned, without giving details.
Turkey considers the PYD and its armed wing, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) “terrorist groups” with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) active in Turkey.
The PKK has waged a decades-long armed fight against the Turkish state that has killed tens of thousands of people.
Turkey – together with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel group – last month launched an air and ground offensive into Afrin in the northwest of Syria to defeat the US-backed YPG fighters near its border.
The Turkish foreign ministry said that the Czech court’s denial of Ankara’s provisional arrest request did not comply with its obligations under international law to combat “terrorism”.
“The Czech Court, instead of taking him into custody, by releasing Salih Muslim, demonstrated its indifference towards the loss of dozens of innocent civilian lives and grief of their families,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The Czech Republic, with this decision, has revealed once again another example of insincere and unconvincing discourse on counterterrorism in Europe.”
Turkey’s interior ministry had offered a bounty of nearly one million dollars for the arrest of Muslim, who is listed by Ankara as a “most wanted terrorist”.
Muslim told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that he did not take the arrest warrant seriously in Europe prior to his detention.
He said: “Everybody knows I am a politician and my name was included through 49 names [to be arrested in Turkey], of which I know most of them. They are mostly in Europe and I met them and know them, so nobody was taking it seriously. There were some attempts by Turkey again, which knew I was here and they tried again to do it.”
“I think the findings are totally false. It’s nothing. It’s unbelievable. First of all, I am a citizen of Syria. I am not a citizen of Turkey and the second thing is, I am a politician,” he added.
‘Satisfied with court’s decision’
Miroslav Krutina, Muslim’s lawyer, told Al Jazeera that they were satisfied with the ruling as the judge did not consider it necessary after hearing the arguments to retain the custody of Muslim during the judicial process.
“Our client has promised that he would be at the disposal of the court. It is traditional this way, as the proceedings have only started. It will take some time,” Krutina said.
The lawyer said that the extradition process could take a month or even half a year.
Turkey had asked authorities in Prague to extradite him with a file explaining the arguments for the request earlier in the week.
According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the file for extradition recalls that a high court in Ankara had filed a case against Muslim for a deadly attack carried out in the capital in 2016.
The charges against him include damaging national unity and integrity, deliberate murder, damaging public property and transferring dangerous materials, according to Anadolu.
The attack took place in March 2016 when an explosive-laden vehicle was detonated in a popular shopping area in Ankara and left 37 dead and dozens more injured.
The court had also issued an arrest warrant for Muslim and requested that Interpol issue a red notice against him.