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Greece Urged Not to Extradite Erdogan Critic

Greece Erdogan critic
The life of businessman Ali Yesildag is in danger if extradited to Turkey, NGOs say. Video screenshot/YouTube/Bold+

Human Rights groups have called on Greece not to extradite a Turkish businessman and a critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Turkey.

“The life of businessman Ali Yesildag is in danger” in Turkey, and he risks a life sentence over charges of “participating in an armed extremist organization,” the Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR) and four other refugee rights agencies said in a joint statement.

The group called on the Greek justice minister “to protect the life of Ali Yesildag…in accordance with fundamental legal guarantees and international law, and to reject the Turkish state’s request.”

Greece’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of extradition

Last week, Greece’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the extradition of Yesildag—who had applied for political asylum in November after he was arrested by Greek police close to Turkey’s border.

“Unfortunately, neither the obvious political dimension of the persecution of Ali Yesildag, nor the immediate danger to his fundamental rights in case of extradition have weighed on the Supreme Court’s judgment,” the NGOs said.

The court’s decision on Yesildag’s extradition is pending approval by Justice Minister George Floridis.

Erdogan critic accuses Erdogan of corruption

In May 2023, Yesildag accused Erdogan of corruption in a video that was broadcast during the Turkish leader’s presidential campaign. According to Yesildag, Erdogan had received a bribe over a tender for the operation of an airport in Southern Turkey.

His public denunciations caused political turmoil in Turkey with opposition parties calling for clarification.

In mid-November 2023, Greek border guards spotted the businessman in a rural area of Feres in northeastern Greece, having illegally crossed the Greek-Turkish border. Greek police officers found that he had a pending Turkish Interpol warrant against him for robbery and homicide allegedly committed in 1986.

Yesildag was born in 1961 in Rize province, President Erdogan’s birthplace. He was Erdogan’s cellmate and reported bodyguard when Erdogan was imprisoned in 1999 for reading a poem.

He had several companies working in the food and construction industries and became a wealthy businessman while Erdogan ruled the country. However, for unknown reasons, Yesildag later parted ways with Erdogan.

Since a coup attempt against Erdogan in 2016, numerous opponents of the President have sought asylum in Greece.

Human Rights campaigners fear Greece may extradite Yesildag following the recent “thaw” in relations between Athens and Ankara.

After years of tension over immigration, energy rights, and maritime borders in the Aegean Sea, Greece and Turkey restarted high-level talks in December.

Erdogan paid his first visit to Athens since 2017 and signed a declaration of friendship between the two historic rivals.

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