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Turkey lambasts ‘unacceptable’ UK court extradition rejection

ANKARA: Turkey on Thursday lambasted an “unacceptable” decision by a British court to reject a request from Ankara to extradite a prominent businessman accused of providing financial support for the 2016 failed coup.

British judge John Zani on Wednesday said the case against Akin Ipek, owner of the Koza-Ipek media conglomerate, was “politically motivated,” according to his lawyers. Ipek faces charges in Turkey of funding “terrorist” enterprises linked to the US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen is accused of ordering the July 2016 attempted overthrow of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but he strongly denies any involvement. Ankara calls Gulen’s “Hizmet” (Service) movement a terrorist group but followers insist they are part of a peaceful organization promoting moderate Islam and education.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Turkey had “strongly emphasized to the British authorities” that the ruling was “unacceptable and deeply disappointing.”

“The reasoning of the court to deny our extradition request is entirely unsubstantiated,” Aksoy said in a statement, adding that Ankara expected the “prompt return” of suspects to then be tried before Turkish courts.

Judge Zani was quoted as saying that Ipek would face “a real risk of ill-treatment in the event of return,” adding that recent events in the country “give this court little comfort that the rule of law has remained undisturbed.”

Hours after the ruling on Wednesday, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul also hit out at the “unacceptable” ruling in a series of tweets.

Gul said Turkey expected the UK to extradite Ipek according to international laws and agreements, thereby showing “friendship” to its NATO ally Turkey.

The Turkish officials’ criticism marks a rare moment of public discord between Ankara and London, whose relations have flourished in recent years even as Turkey’s tensions with other EU countries strained further.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested by Turkey in the crackdown that followed the attempted putsch and the Turkish authorities have also brought back suspects in secret operations from foreign countries including Ukraine and Kosovo.

On May 15 this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had urged British Prime Minister Theresa May to extradite Turkish exiles from the Gulenist or Kurdish movements, saying that if she did not act act against terrorists, it would come back to bite her.
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