Romania rejects request by Turkey to extradite journalist

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A Romanian court on Friday rejected a request by Turkey to extradite a Turkish journalist it accuses of terrorism, after prosecutors said the case was political.

Turkey wants to try Kamil Demirkaya for links to Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric blamed by Turkey for orchestrating a failed coup in 2016.

The Court of Appeal delivered its ruling after 15 minutes’ deliberation and later said there was no legal basis to extradite him.

Prosecutors told the court that “the extradition (request) is based on ideological and political reasons, which contravene the rules of the extradition convention.” When a prosecutor says there is no case, it is automatically dropped, meaning the ruling is final.

The case has been delicate for Romania, which takes over the EU’s rotating presidency on Jan. 1.

Demirkaya was detained in Romania on Dec. 5 after Turkey petitioned to extradite him “for being a member of criminal, terrorist group.”

Demirkaya denies allegations of terrorism. He said he opposed the request because “justice doesn’t function in Turkey.”

He has applied for political asylum in Romania. Speaking through his son Nusret Demirkaya, he told The Associated Press: “I have faith in the Romanian justice system,” adding he was concerned about journalists imprisoned in Turkey and hoped they would soon be freed.

The Zaman Romania newspaper where Demirkaya works says the extradition was ordered by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Zaman’s edition in Turkey was shut down by the government after the failed coup, in which Gulen denies involvement.

Zaman, which is critical of Erdogan, now has editions in Romania and Bulgaria. Demirkaya has lived in Romania for two years and writes about “the abuses of power in Ankara,” the paper said.

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