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Syrian Kurd Leader Wanted By Turkey Detained In Prague

A man waves a flag of the Kurdish People's Protection Units, the military wing of the Democratic Union Party, at a demonstration in the Syrian city of Qamishli on February 4, 2016.

A prominent leader of Syria’s Kurdish community has been detained by Czech authorities on a warrant from Turkey.

Salih Muslim, the former co-head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), was detained in Prague the previous day, his former party said.

Czech police confirmed in a statement on February 25 that a foreign national, aged 67, was in custody after being detained on February 24 based on an Interpol notice from Turkey.

"The police will take the standard steps in line with the law," the Czech statement said.

The PYD said in a statement on February 25 that Muslim, who was in Prague for a conference, had "full citizenship rights" as a Syrian national and was visiting Europe in an official capacity.

The party accused Ankara of "demanding the arrest of individuals who are not its citizens...without any legal justifications."

Turkey has been seeking Muslim since a Turkish court charged him with "breaking the state and country's unity" and other offenses.

Germany-based Syrian Kurdish activist Qusai Shekho, speaking to RFE/RL in Prague, said he was in the Czech capital with other Kurdish activists and politicians.

"We are closely following the situation. Lawyers are working to maintain contact with Czech authorities in accordance with Czech law," he said.

The PYD, which Turkey considers a "terrorist group," is the main political Kurdish force in the north of Syria. Muslim stepped down as its co-chair last year but remains influential.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he hoped the Czech Republic would extradite Muslim to Turkey.

"When he is extradited, they will see how justice is implemented," Erdogan said on February 25.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters on February 25 that the foreign ministers of Turkey and the Czech Republic would discuss Muslim’s possible extradition.

"Upon finding the person in question was in the Czech Republic, the necessary contacts were made and it was demanded that he be captured and arrested to be extradited back to our country," the Turkish Justice Ministry said in a statement.

Turkish security forces have been fighting the PYD's armed affiliate, the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units (YPG), in northern Syria.

Turkey last month launched an air-and-land military operation in the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin.

Ankara also considers the YPG to be a terrorist group and an extension of the banned Kurdish Workers Party in Turkey.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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