According to Justice Ministry statistics, Turkey received a positive response for only 15 of the 158 extradition requests it has made since 2000. Among those 15 suspects, there is not a single figure from the two main terrorist groups Turkey has battled for so long, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C).
The same statistics suggest that only Germany, Romania, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine were partly receptive to Turkey’s requests to extradite terror suspects, whereas France, Belgium and Holland were the least compliant in the same field.
Turkey has been party to the European Convention on Extradition since 1959 and the European Convention on Suppression of Terrorism since 1980. In addition to these international agreements, Turkey has also ratified the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, but it has been unable to manage the return of a single suspect from Europe. Most of the inmates repatriated to Turkey are those who themselves would prefer to serve their time in Turkish prisons.
Turkish prisoners serving time in Europe
According to information Today’s Zaman obtained from the Justice Ministry’s Prisons and Houses of Detention Directorate General, of the 498 requests from prisoners that they be transferred to Turkey from Europe, only 104 have been approved since 2006. When the annual figures are examined, it is clear that inmates have been increasingly deterred from applying to serve their prison sentences in Turkey. The high rate of rejection has been maintained and even saw an increase from 78 percent in 2006 to 91 percent in the first half of 2010. The same directorate also suggested in a recent report that conditions in Turkish prisons are now less comfortable for inmates as European standards have been adopted. The report argues that until 2006 Turkish prisons were more comfortable than European prisons because most inmates were allowed to stay together in large shared wards before European standards were enforced. Currently, according to what is called the ‘F type’ prison model, a sizeable number of inmates also stay alone in cells and the prisons are administered more stringently.
Though Turkish inmates staying in European prisons are not as enthusiastic as they used to be about serving their time in Turkey, Turkish prisoners held in Central Asian states as well as in the Middle East and Africa are expending much effort to be transferred to Turkey. It is generally known that the prison conditions in theses regions are below the world average. On the other hand, Turkey also has a sizeable number of foreign prisoners. At a special penitentiary in the northwestern province of Bilecik, 1,533 inmates from 85 countries are being held, most of them Iranian nationals charged with drug trafficking.
Turkey, on principle, is facilitating procedures to allow these inmates to serve their sentence in their homelands if they would like to. However, none of Turkey’s Iranian inmates have expressed a desire to return to Iran and complete their punishments there. When it comes to terror suspects, Turkey shows much sensitivity to extradition requests, particularly after 9/11, a ministry official who preferred to remain anonymous told Today’s Zaman. Turkey extradited 37 criminals last year.