Former Syrian Kurdish Leader Detained in Prague Under Turkish Request

Salih Muslim, former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party, was detained under an Interpol red notice based on an Ankara call for his arrest

A Kurdish demonstrator wears pendants showing jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and a party symbol in Beirut, Monday, January 22, 2018.
Hussein Malla/AP

Czech authorities detained a former leader of a Syrian Kurdish political party under an Interpol red notice that was based on Turkey's request for his arrest, Turkey's official news agency and a Kurdish official said Sunday.

Anadolu news agency said Salih Muslim, former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, was detained on Saturday in Prague.

A Kurdish official close to Muslim said the former PYD leader was in Prague attending a conference. After a Turkish participant took a photograph of him, Czech police detained the Syrian politician, following a request by Turkey.

Czech police didn't immediately confirm the report.

Muslim was put on Turkey's most-wanted list earlier in February with a reward for $1 million.

Turkey considers the PYD a "terrorist group" linked to outlawed Kurdish insurgents fighting within Turkey's own borders.

The party is the leading political Kurdish force in northern Syria, and Muslim remains highly influential even after stepping down as co-chair last year.

The Kurdish official said the former PYD leader was invited to Prague to take part in a conference held once every six months to discuss issues linked to the Middle East such as the Syrian crisis, Turkey, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The official, who is also in Prague, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information about the conference.

Anadolu said Turkey is submitting an extradition request for Muslim and that a Czech court will decide whether to extradite him or not. Muslim is a Syrian citizen.

On January 20, Turkey launched an incursion into northern Syria, seeking to rout the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People's Protection Units or YPG, from the enclave of Afrin. The YPG is the armed wing of the PYD.

Turkey shares a 911-kilometer border with Syria. The YPG controls much of the territory along the border.