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Finland will abide by same international agreements on extradition, Justice Minister says

Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a trilateral memorandum this week, the terms of which have been the subject of much debate in each country.

File photo of Finland's Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson (SPP) has said that Finland will continue to follow the same international agreements regarding extradition as previously.

"In other words, the legal process will be exactly the same and each individual case will be reviewed separately," she said.

Henriksson's comments come after her Turkish counterpart Bekir Bozdag told the Russian network NTV that Turkey will seek the extradition of 33 suspected terrorists from Finland and Sweden.

This follows the signing of a trilateral memorandum between Turkey, Sweden and Finland on Tuesday, which prompted Turkey's approval of the Nordic nations' applications to join Nato.

Bozdag told reporters on Wednesday that Turkey is requesting the extradition of 12 people from Finland and 21 from Sweden under the terms of the memorandum, as Turkey suspects these people of terrorist activities.

As Justice Minister, matters related to extradition fall under Henriksson's remit and she said that no political considerations can be allowed to play a part in the decision-making process, echoing comments made by President Sauli Niinistö on the same subject.

"If there are now new requests for extraditions, they will be handled in the same way as before. We comply with the Council of Europe's Convention on Extradition," Henriksson said.

She further noted that Finland has dealt with "about twenty or so extradition requests" from Turkey over the past ten years, adding that in some cases Finland has accepted the requests and in others has refused.

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Memorandum of understanding or cooperation treaty?

There has been much public debate in Finland about how binding the terms of the memorandum will be, with some foreign policy specialists viewing the document as an agreement while others view it as a looser declaration.

"This document is in the nature of a memorandum of understanding, it is not a treaty. But of course what is written in it is what we are proceeding with," Henriksson said.

Martti Koskenniemi, a professor of International Law at the University of Helsinki, told Yle that the document should be considered a treaty, as the terms were agreed by the highest levels of leadership in each of the countries involved.

However, the text of the document is quite vague and ambiguous, leaving each side open to make their own interpretations.

According to Jussi Halla-aho (Finns), chair of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Finland should now focus on the next steps in the Nato application process.

"Although Finland and Sweden have now been invited to join, there will still be a ratification process for all member states. From this point of view, I would settle for now that it is good that all parties are satisfied," Halla-aho said.

He added that relations between Finland and Turkey would change as the two nations become military allies as Nato partners, and it is therefore natural that the countries would take each other's security threats seriously, as the cooperation document states.

Turkey's initial opposition to Finland and Sweden joining Nato was motivated by a desire to have its own concerns recognised within Nato, Halla-aho said.

"My own interpretation is that Turkey wanted visibility on issues that are very important to Turkey but which, from Turkey's point of view, are not taken seriously enough by the partner countries," he told Yle.