Turkey on Tuesday accused the Czech judicial authorities of backing terror after the release of prominent Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim, warning that ties between Ankara and Prague would be harmed.
“This decision is very clearly a decision in support for terrorism,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters in Ankara. “This decision will negatively impact relations between Turkey and the Czech Republic,” he warned, without giving details.
Turkey wants Prague to extradite Mr. Muslim, the former leader of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and still a figurehead for Kurds in Syria, to face trial on terror charges.
A Prague court earlier ruled to release Muslim after his arrest at Turkey’s request over the weekend.But his lawyer said that the Syrian Kurdish leader had vowed to cooperate with extradition proceedings.
The arrest came as Turkey presses an over month-long operation inside Syria aimed at dislodging the People’s Protection Units (YPG) — the military wing of the PYD — from the Afrin region of the country’s north.
Czech court on Tuesday released Saleh Muslim, former co-leader of #PYD group.
— Mete Sohtaoğlu (@metesohtaoglu) February 27, 2018
Ankara sees the YPG and PYD as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which for over three decades has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state and is banned by Turkey, the US and the European Union as a terror group.
“We know, the world knows, the Czech Republic knows that PYD-YPG-PKK…is a bloody-minded terror organisation, which has harmed civilians,” said Mr. Bozdag.
Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul also lashed out at the decision, saying it was not in line with international law and could not be accepted by Turkey. He said that Turkey expected that the Czech authorities would go back on “this mistake” in the “shortest possible time.”
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had earlier said that the ruling would be “a day of reckoning” for the Czech Republic, an ally of Turkey in NATO.
Were Muslim extradited, it would mark the biggest snaring of a wanted Kurdish leader by Turkey since the detention of PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan in a 1999 operation in Kenya.