BY ABDURRAHMAN ŞIMŞEK
Levent Kenez, who works for a Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) mouthpiece, is the latest member of the group sighted in Sweden, as Türkiye strives to extradite terror suspects from the Scandinavian country.
Kenez is the fourth member of the terrorist group found in the Swedish capital Stockholm by the Sabah newspaper since October.
Kenez, former editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Meydan newspaper affiliated with the terrorist group, apparently continues his work creating FETÖ propaganda, cooperating with two other FETÖ members behind the Nordic Research and Monitoring Network. The website is notorious for its anti-Türkiye propaganda and for defending fellow members of the terrorist group. Other names behind the website, Abdullah Bozkurt and Murat Çetiner, a former police chief, were earlier sighted in Stockholm. The website, founded four years ago in Sweden, is behind thousands of news articles viewed as black propaganda by Türkiye. Kenez and Bozkurt showed up at United Nations’ Geneva office in 2019, attending a panel to advance FETÖ’s agenda of black propaganda targeting Türkiye.
He recently made thinly veiled threats to Sweden, through Swedish media outlets, claiming that there will be “consequences” for the country if he and other FETÖ members are extradited to Türkiye. He reportedly sought an extension of the “political asylum” he was granted which is scheduled to expire this month.
Kenez was detained in Türkiye on July 20, 2016, five days after the terrorist group attempted to overthrow the government through a coup attempt. However, a court ordered his release. The Chief Prosecutor’s Office in Istanbul appealed his release and an arrest warrant was issued against him on charges of membership in a terrorist group. Yet, he disappeared and was believed to have fled into Sweden. Prosecutors applied to the Justice Ministry for an extradition request for Kenez in April 2020. The extradition request sent to Stockholm by the ministry says Kenez was disseminating propaganda in favor of the terrorist group, in line with FETÖ’s agenda, and cites his work in Meydan newspaper which served the goals of FETÖ. The extradition letter also says Kenez spread FETÖ propaganda online. A Swedish court rejected the extradition request in 2021.
He was also linked to an association for businesspeople in Türkiye, which was shut down for its affiliation with FETÖ. Investigations uncovered that he had contacts with senior figures of FETÖ as indicated by his phone calls to them in 2017.
Sweden relies on Türkiye’s support for NATO membership. Last month, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated that Ankara would not approve its membership as long as Stockholm does not extradite terrorists.
Addressing accompanying Turkish press members on his way back from Azerbaijan, Erdoğan touched upon Sweden’s ongoing reluctance to extradite terror suspects wanted by Türkiye. The president told reporters that Türkiye would not change its stance against the country’s accession until the extradition requests are approved. “These terrorists, who have been subjected to such penal sanctions, should be caught and handed over to us. Unless these are given to us, this will not work at the parliamentary stage. The approach of the current new prime minister is in favor of the fight against terrorism and terrorists; Of course, we will test their sincerity on this issue through our meeting. Our stance will not change. Because we are uncompromising in the fight against terrorism and we have no intention of making any concessions.”
The Swedish government will redouble efforts to implement the trilateral memorandum signed with Türkiye, which would open the door for the Nordic country to join NATO, Sweden’s newly elected Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said earlier. Speaking at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Kristersson said: “The trilateral memorandum has established new platforms for cooperation in the fight against terrorism between Sweden and Türkiye. Counterterrorism is a priority for Sweden ahead of and after our accession to NATO.” For Sweden and Finland to become NATO members, their applications must be ratified by all 30 NATO members. So far, 28 have already done so – only Türkiye and Hungary have votes still pending. Türkiye’s Parliament must ratify the country’s approval for Finland and Sweden’s membership for them to join NATO.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO in June, a decision spurred by Russia’s war on Ukraine. However, Türkiye voiced objections to the membership bids, criticizing the countries for tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups.
A trilateral memorandum at the NATO Madrid summit signed among the countries in June stipulates that Finland and Sweden will not provide support to the PKK’s Syrian offshoots, the YPG and the PYD, or FETÖ. Sweden and Finland agreed earlier this summer to assure Türkiye of their support against security risks. Among Türkiye’s demands were the repatriation of some suspects and Sweden lifting its arms embargo. Sweden said that it is ready to supply weapons to Türkiye as part of its bid to join NATO.