Turkey formally requests extradition of Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim

Turkey formally requests extradition of Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim
2 min read
26 February, 2018
Saleh Muslim, a key figure of the Syrian Kurdish movement, was detained on Saturday night at an upmarket Prague hotel, Czech and Turkish officials said.
Saleh Muslim has been wanted by Turkey since 2016. [Getty]

Turkey formally asked for the extradition of the one of the most prominent leaders of the Syrian Kurds on Monday after he was detained by Czech police at the weekend at Ankara's request.

Saleh Muslim, a key figure of the Syrian Kurdish movement, was detained on Saturday night at an upmarket Prague hotel, Czech and Turkish officials said.

Muslim was a former co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the political wing of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.

"The justice ministry has completed its preparations (for extradition) and this file has been sent to the Czech judicial authorities as of yesterday," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said.

"Our request is for the extradition for Saleh Muslim - the manager of a terror organisation, a ringleader and who is still involved in terror actions against Turkey - as required by the law that binds us both," Bozdag told NTV broadcaster in an interview.

Bozdag, also government spokesman, has previously noted that both Turkey and the Czech Republic were parties to the European Convention on Extradition.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul that Turkish authorities were taking steps to avoid "an adverse outcome" to the extradition request. 

Turkey last month launched an air and ground offensive supporting Syrian rebels against the US-backed YPG in its western enclave of Afrin.

The Turkish army on Monday took control of the outer edge of Syria's Afrin region, state media said, as Ankara said it was readying for a "new battle" by deploying police special forces.

Ankara says the YPG and PYD are "terrorist" extensions of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.

The PKK is proscribed a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies but the US has been working closely with the YPG against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Muslim was one of the driving forces behind the the Kurds taking control of Rojava in northern Syria in March 2016, an autonomous Kurdish region consisting of the cantons of Jazira, Kobane and Afrin. 

Muslim is wanted by Ankara over a February 2016 attack in Ankara that killed 29 people that the Turkish authorities blamed on Kurdish militants.

He has been charged and faces 30 life sentences if found guilty but he has dismissed the accusations against him.

If he is extradited, he would be one of the most senior Kurdish officials to be in Turkish custody since the detention of PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan in 1999.