A Turkish journalist living in exile in Sweden who’s on a list of political dissidents whose extradition is demanded by the Turkish government has been targeted by a pro-government newspaper that revealed his home address and published secretly taken photos.
This time it was journalist Bülent Keneş, an academic and a former editor-in-chief of the now-closed English language daily Today’s Zaman who was targeted by the Sabah daily. Keneş is one of the political dissidents whose extradition Turkey is demanding from the Swedish government in exchange for dropping its objection to the Nordic country’s NATO membership.
Sabah on Wednesday published secretly taken photos of Keneş leaving a Stockholm shopping center with a bag in his hand. The paper also revealed Keneş’s address in addition to publishing pictures of his house.
Sabah said Keneş was leading a life of luxury in Sweden, living in TL 10 million ($537,000) “villa,” and that he looked concerned and anxious on the street.
It was again the daily’s news coordinator, Abdurrahman Şimşek, who is suspected of having ties to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), who followed Keneş in Stockholm for months to find out his address and take pictures of him.
Şimşek also recently targeted two other journalists in exile, Cevheri Güven in Germany and Abdullah Bozkurt in Sweden, revealing their addresses and secretly taken photos on Sabah’s front page. Bozkurt was the former Ankara representative of Today’s Zaman.
The three are among the dozens of people who left Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016 to avoid a government-led post-coup crackdown targeting critical journalists as well as non-loyalist citizens.
They continue their job from abroad, and their reports and social media posts anger the government and its supporters as they talk about the dirty relations of the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with crime groups and radical organizations as well as their corruption.
The journalists are accused by the Turkish government of having links to the faith-based Gülen movement, which is labelled as the mastermind of the failed coup and a “terrorist organization” by the Turkish government.
Today’s Zaman, a sister newspaper to Turkey’s best-selling newspaper Zaman, was closed down by the government in the aftermath of the coup attempt in addition to dozens of other media organizations due to their links to the Gülen movement.
An outraged Keneş responded to Sabah’s story in a series of tweets on Wednesday. He said he is not in hiding in Sweden as claimed by Sabah and would have been willing to talk to Şimşek if he had contacted to him instead of following him and covertly taking his picture.
He said the house where he lives in Stockholm, which is presented as a luxurious “villa” in Sabah’s story, is located in a remote neighborhood and is considered a small house in Sweden and that he rented, not bought, it, contrary to what Sabah claimed.
Keneş called on Sabah and Şimşek to stop acting as “dishonest subcontractors” of the dirty acts of the Erdoğan regime under the pretext of journalism.
Keneş, who was one of the founders of the Stockholm Center for Freedom, an advocacy organization that promotes the rule of law, democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, is also among the founders of the Brussels-based European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS).
NATO member Turkey is threatening to freeze Sweden and Finland’s attempts to join the Western defense alliance unless they extradite dozens of people Ankara accuses of “terrorism” including Keneş.
A non-binding deal Sweden and fellow NATO aspirant Finland signed with Turkey in June commits them to “expeditiously and thoroughly” examine Ankara’s requests for suspects linked to the Gülen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Both Swedish and Finnish government officials said they will continue to respect national and international laws regarding Turkey’s extradition requests and that the decision for extraditions will be up to independent authorities and the courts.
The seven Gülen-linked political dissidents whose extradition Turkey is seeking from Sweden, according to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency earlier this month, are writer Harun Tokak, journalists Keneş and Levent Kenez, Yılmaz Aytan, former police chief Murat Çetiner, Orhan Er and Harun Ayvaz, who all face trials in Turkey due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement.
Some alleged PKK members are also on Turkey’s list, according to Anadolu, which said Sweden earlier rejected Turkey’s extradition requests for these people.
Sabah’s story about Keneş comes at a time when Turkish journalists in exile are being subjected to attacks by unknown assailants believed to be linked to the Turkish government. The Sabah daily is owned by the Turkuvaz Media Group, whose CEO is Serhat Albayrak, the brother of Erdoğan’s son-in-law and former finance minister Berat Albayrak.
In March Ahmet Dönmez, a Turkish journalist living in exile in Sweden and known for his reports on mafia groups associated with Turkish government officials including Erdoğan, was attacked by two men in Stockholm.
Dönmez, who lost consciousness after the attack, which took place in front of his 6-year-old daughter, was treated in intensive care due to an injury to his head.
In 2020 journalist Bozkurt sustained injuries when he was attacked by three men who were waiting for him in front of his house in Stockholm.
In July 2021 another exiled journalist, Erk Acarer, was attacked “with fists and knives” in the courtyard of his apartment building in Berlin.
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