Turkey says Swedish decision not to probe protest ‘absurd’

Jan 16, 2023, 6:44 PM | Updated: Jan 17, 2023, 8:51 am

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey on Tuesday denounced as “absurd” a decision by a Swedish prosecutor not to open an investigation into a protest by Kurds in central Stockholm where an effigy of the Turkish president was hung from a lamppost.

Last week’s protest outside Stockholm City Hall drew an angry backlash from Turkey, a NATO member which has been holding off on approving Sweden’s application to join the military alliance until the Swedish government cracks down on groups that Ankara regards as security threats. Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador and canceled a visit by the speaker of the Swedish parliament in reaction to the incident.

In Sweden, a newspaper reported that a prosecutor has decided not to open a criminal investigation into the hanging of an effigy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Stockholm, saying no illegal act was committed. District Attorney Lucas Eriksson told Sweden’s tabloid Aftonbladet about the decision.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu disagreed, saying the protest amounted to racism and hate crime.

“The decision to not investigate made by the (Swedish) prosecution is extremely absurd,” Cavusoglu said during a joint news conference with the visiting Iranian foreign minister. “This was a racist incident which consists of hate crimes. Therefore (the decision to not prosecute, investigate) is also against universal law and is a crime under international law.”

“If Sweden thinks it is stringing us along with these word games, I’d like to say they’re kidding themselves,” he said.

Alarmed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland dropped their longstanding policies of military nonalignment and applied to join NATO in May. All 30 member countries must agree to admit the two Nordic neighbors into the security organization.

The Turkish government has pressed Finland and Sweden to crack down on Kurdish exiles it accuses of links to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party and groups it considers to be terrorist organizations, and to extradite people suspected of terror-related crimes. Cavusoglu said last month that Sweden was not even “halfway” through addressing his country’s concerns.

Photographs posted on social media showed a mannequin resembling Erdogan hanging upside down. A group calling itself the Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava claimed it was behind the protest. Rojava is a Kurdish name for north and east Syria.

Last week, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called the protest as an act of “sabotage” against Sweden’s bid to join NATO.

The Ankara chief prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into the incident following a criminal complaint filed by Erdogan’s lawyers and has sent a formal request for information and evidence from Swedish authorities.

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Turkey says Swedish decision not to probe protest ‘absurd’