Syrian Kurdish Leader Saleh Muslim Arrested in Prague At Turkey’s Request

PYD, Saleh Muslim, Turkey

Prague, Feb 25 (CTK) – The Czech police have detained a 67-year-old foreigner wanted by the Turkish Interpol, but would not say his name, police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova told CTK today, while the Turkish press agency Anadolu says the Syrian Kurds’ leader Saleh Muslim was detained in Prague.


Muslim is the former co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the driving Kurdish political force in Northern Syria.


Kurdish doctor and businessman Yekta Uzunoglu said the detained man was really Muslim. “Yes, it is Saleh Muslim, an ally of the coalition forces in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS),” Uzunoglu told CTK.


The Turkish Justice ministry said Turkey had started efforts to have Muslim extradited to Ankara, Reuters reported.


The Czech Justice Ministry has no information on the case yet, its spokeswoman Tereza Schejbalova said.


Czech diplomacy is not dealing with the matter either.


Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the Turkish and Czech foreign ministers would discuss the possible extradition of Muslim, Reuters reported.


Czech Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Michaela Lagronova said this was a matter of the police and possibly the Justice Ministry at present as an international warrant for the man’s arrest was issued. However, she did not rule out diplomatic talks later.


The Turkish Interior Ministry put Muslim on the list of the most wanted terrorists in early February. The ministry offered a reward of an equivalent of 22 million crowns for his capture.


The Prague police detained the foreigner in the night to Sunday on the basis of a preliminary consent by a state attorney, Zoulova tweeted.


“The detainee has been put into a police cell,” she added, without elaborating about his name.


She only told the media that the Interpol office in Ankara had been informed about the detention of the man via the international legal cooperation channels.


Saleh Muslim still keeps a strong influence in the PYD, though he stepped down from a leading post in this party last year.


AP quotes a Kurdish source close to Muslim as saying he attended a Middle-East conference in Prague. After a participant from Turkey took a picture with him, the Czech police detained Muslim at Ankara’s request, AP reported


Ankara considers the PYD a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for autonomous Kurdistan in southeast Turkey for about 30 years. Turkey and the European Union consider the PKK a terrorist organisation.


The Turkish authorities issued a warrant for the arrest of Saleh Muslim and another 47 high-ranking PYD officials in November 2016.


This is not the first case of the Czech police arresting a man on the basis of an international arrest warrant initiated by Turkey.


In November 2015, the police in Hradec Kralove, east Bohemia, detained Turkish citizen Nazmi Sahin, whom Italy had previously granted a refugee status. Sahin, who is Kurd according to some media, was sentenced to six years and three months in prison in Turkey “for being linked to an organisation with political interests incompatible with Turkey’s” and he avoided serving his sentence.


A Czech court ruled in February 2016 that his extradition to Turkey was inadmissible and released him from custody.