Romania joined a number of other countries on Friday when a court in the country rejected Turkey's request for the extradition of a member of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), derailing Ankara's counterterrorism efforts.
Kamil Demirkaya, who is wanted by Turkey for his links to the group which is blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, was released pending ruling earlier after he was detained in Romania on Dec. 5. Demirkaya is running Zaman Romania and Zaman Bulgaria, two newspapers which serve as mouthpieces for FETÖ, according to Turkish media outlets.
FETÖ is accused of carrying out the 2016 coup attempt that killed 251 people in Turkey, using its infiltrators in the military. Many members of the group fled abroad after the coup attempt was quelled.
The Zaman newspaper, which was shut down before the coup attempt for its links to FETÖ, still operates abroad with anti-Turkish coverage and articles praising the terrorist group. Turkey seeks closer cooperation from other countries in bringing the group's members to justice and has secured the extradition of hundreds from abroad after the 2016 coup bid.
The Court of Appeal in Romania delivered its ruling after 15 minutes of deliberation and said the reasons for the ruling will be disclosed later. Demirkaya has also applied for asylum in Romania.
Romania maintains close ties with Turkey, officially a strategic partner since 2011. In a joint press conference with visiting Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila in October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has praised the European country's solidarity with Turkey following the 2016 coup attempt, adding that they expected continued counterterrorism cooperation. Erdoğan has emphasized that they were in contact with Romanian authorities for "necessary steps to be taken" against FETÖ-linked people and institutions. FETÖ runs an international network of schools and companies, from the Balkans to Asia.
The terrorist group faced a heightened crackdown following the 2016 coup attempt and tens of thousands of people were detained or arrested for their links to the group. In Friday's operations against FETÖ's military infiltrators, the Chief Prosecutor's Office in Istanbul issued detention warrants for 219 active-duty soldiers, including four colonels. In an operation named after Turgut Aslan, former head of the Turkish police's counterterrorism department who was shot by putschists on July 15, 2016, police rounded up more than 100 suspects and operations were underway to capture the others when Daily Sabah went to print.
The suspects were identified by investigators for their secret communications with FETÖ members via payphones. In the capital Ankara, prosecutors issued detention warrants for 48 FETÖ suspects, including former and current employees of leading defense contractors. Like those wanted by prosecutors in Istanbul, the suspects were identified through their payphone contacts with what authorities termed as "imams," handlers of FETÖ overseeing the group's infiltrators. Some suspects were already fired from their jobs on suspicion of links to the group, which is known for widespread infiltration into state agencies.