- A Turkish man in Sweden has been charged by Swedish prosecutors for alleged attempted extortion, a weapons offense, and attempted terrorist financing linked to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
- According to Swedish media, this is the first instance of someone being prosecuted in Sweden for alleged terrorist financing of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
- Turkey has declined to endorse Sweden’s NATO membership bid, claiming that the Swedish government has not taken sufficient measures to combat individuals affiliated with the PKK.
Swedish prosecutors charged a Turkish man Friday with “attempted aggravated extortion, an aggravated weapons offense and attempted terrorist financing,” saying he was acting on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Swedish media noted it was the first time that someone in Sweden was prosecuted for alleged terrorist financing of the party. Also known as PKK, it has waged an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Turkey has refused to approve Sweden’s request to join NATO, accusing the Swedish government of not doing enough to crack down on PKK members and others whom Ankara considers extremists. The military alliance wants to admit Sweden before a NATO summit next month in Vilnius, Lithuania.
All existing members must ratify a candidate country’s accession protocol before it can join the trans-Atlantic alliance. Turkey and Hungary are the only two members that have not yet ratified Sweden’s bid.
The man charged Friday is in his 40s. Prosecutors did not identify him. He is accused of attempting to extort money on Jan. 11 in Stockholm by pointing a loaded revolver at a person, firing in the air and threatening to damage the premises unless he received demanded funds the following day, according to the charge sheet obtained by The Associated Press.
The man denies any wrongdoing, Swedish news agency TT said.
The charge sheet alleged the money he attempted to raise was to finance terror activities and part of activity “on a larger scale.” The suspect had been “alluding to his belonging to the organization PKK,” the document states.
The prosecution suspects he had contact with another Turkish citizen who was sentenced to prison in Germany in 2016 for membership in the PKK and for being “directly involved in the organization’s fundraising.”
Sweden tightened its anti-terrorism laws last month, a move expected to help persuade Turkey to approve the Nordic nation’s request to join NATO. Swedish lawmakers included a prison term of up to four years for individuals convicted of participating in an extremist organization in a way that is intended to promote, strengthen or support the group.
However, the penalty can be increased to eight years when a crime is deemed serious.
The revisions took effect June 1.
“Turkey has long pressed for concrete measures against the PKK, so I think this can have a certain effect on the NATO process,” Paul Levin, director of the Institute for Turkish Studies at Stockholm University, told Swedish broadcaster TV4.