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Turkey formally requests Syrian Kurdish leader’s extradition

In this Sept. 1, 2016 file photo, then co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim addresses journalists at the European Parliament in Brussels. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert / Associated Press)
In this Sept. 1, 2016 file photo, then co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim addresses journalists at the European Parliament in Brussels. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert / Associated Press)
Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey has submitted documents to the Czech authorities formally requesting the extradition of the former leader of a Syrian Kurdish party, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said Monday.

Salih Muslim, former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, was detained in the Czech capital of Prague on Saturday based on a Turkish request for his arrest.

Turkey considers the PYD a “terrorist group” linked to outlawed Kurdish insurgents fighting within Turkey’s own borders.

Czech authorities said Muslim was arrested based on a request from Turkey’s Interpol office. However an official at Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon, France, said Monday that the police agency has not issued a worldwide red notice for his arrest.

National Interpol offices can seek a red notice, but it must be approved by a special Interpol procedure meant to ensure that the request is not politically motivated. Interpol would not comment Monday on whether Turkey had sought such a notice and was denied.

Muslim was put on Turkey’s most-wanted list earlier in February with a $1 million reward.

On Monday, Turkish prosecutors issued a new warrant for his detention, accusing Muslim and about 30 other people of being behind a bomb attack on a tax office in Ankara earlier this month.

Nine people – suspected Kurdish militants – were detained in connection with the attack, which caused damage to the tax office but no casualties.

Bozdag said during a live television interview Monday that Turkey’s Justice Ministry had sent a “file” formally requesting his extradition.

Muslim was expected to appear before a Prague court on Tuesday, which would then decide if he will remain in detention, Turkish Ambassador in Prague Ahmet Necati Bigali told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

The PYD is the leading political Kurdish force in northern Syria, and Muslim remains highly influential in the party, even after stepping down as co-chair last year.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched an incursion into northern Syria, seeking to rout the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG, from the enclave of Afrin. The YPG is the armed wing of the PYD.

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