Brazil involves itself in Turkey conflict with extradition request

. May 09, 2019
turkey brazil Erdoğan

On Wednesday, Brazil’s Supreme Court decided to release Turkish-Brazilian restaurant owner Ali Sipahi, after he was arrested last month and made the subject of an extradition request from his country of origin. His initial detention thrust Brazil into the middle of a conflict between the Turkish government and the opposition Hizmet movement—but it is unclear exactly as to how Brazil benefits by getting involved. Mr. Sipahi was arrested by the Federal Police on April 5 after Brazil received an extradition request issued by the Turkish government, led by autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The 31-year-old is accused of involvement in conspiracy and terrorism due to his links with the Gülen movement—also known as Hizmet—inspired by exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Gülen is regarded by President Erdoğan as an enemy of the Turkish state, where Hizmet is classified as a terrorist organization. However, the accusations against Ali Sipahi himself are desperately thin, with the only evidence being a transfer of approximately BRL 1,100 to the now-defunct Asya bank in 2014.</span></p> <div id="attachment_17216" style="width: 1290px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-17216" class="size-full wp-image-17216" src="ğan-ali-sipahi.jpg" alt="Erdoğan ali sipahi" width="1280" height="720" srcset="ğan-ali-sipahi.jpg 1280w,ğan-ali-sipahi-300x169.jpg 300w,ğan-ali-sipahi-768x432.jpg 768w,ğan-ali-sipahi-1024x576.jpg 1024w,ğan-ali-sipahi-610x343.jpg 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1280px) 100vw, 1280px" /><p id="caption-attachment-17216" class="wp-caption-text">Ali Sipahi: persona non grata to President Erdoğan</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Erdoğan forced the bank&#8217;s closure two years later, claiming it was used to fund Hizmet activities. Last year, Turkey&#8217;s Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that money deposits to Asya could be used as evidence of membership to the Gülenist movement.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ali Sipahi has lived in Brazil since 2007 and completed his naturalization process in 2016. His wife is also Turkish-Brazilian, and they have a Brazilian-born child. He is the owner of a Turkish restaurant in São Paulo.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Wednesday&#8217;s decision means that Mr. Sipahi has been released from custody, but the extradition request by the Erdoğan government is still to be decided by the Supreme Court.</span></p> <h2>Public reaction to the case</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The arrest of Ali Sipahi was poorly received in Brazil, with pundits left bewildered as to the motivation behind it. Demétrio Magnoli, a columnist at newspaper </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">O Globo</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">, claimed that Brazil&#8217;s democracy was serving as &#8220;a vassal to a tyrant&#8221; by acting on President Erdoğan&#8217;s extradition request.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Indeed, the move is also confusing from a foreign relations standpoint. Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s government has no real desire in building ties with Mr. Erdogan&#8217;s Turkey, a regime reviled by the Brazilian president&#8217;s two major global allies: the U.S. and Israel. Furthermore, Hizmet has had a long-standing diplomatic presence in the country, backing NGOs such as the Brazil-Turkey Cultural Center (CCBT) and Chamber of Turkish-Brazilian Trade and Industry (CCITB). The former, in a statement, urged the authorities to &#8220;evaluate the case with care.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;We call on the support of the Brazilian people against this persecution,&#8221; reads the statement.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The move could signal how Brazil plans to treat extradition requests from here on out, indicating a break with the country&#8217;s previously more &#8220;protective&#8221; attitude.</span></p> <h2>Bolsonaro&#8217;s &#8220;gift&#8221; to Italy</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The last time international cooperation laws took center stage in Brazil was at the end of 2018, when the Federal Police hunted for Cesare Battisti, the Italian former activist who was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in four murders in the 1970s.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Lula government had granted Mr. Battisti political asylum in Brazil in 2010, but this was revoked by Michel Temer last year. A warrant for his extradition was signed, and he was captured in January after having fled to Bolivia.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazil&#8217;s motivation in going after Mr. Battisti was clear. While a genuine and nuanced debate did exist at the time, the choice to grant him asylum in the country was overwhelmingly a political one; as was the decision to extradite.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Cesare Battisti case also held particular importance for the ideological platform of the newly instated Jair Bolsonaro government. As a former member of a far-left terrorist group in Italy, and having been given shelter by Lula, arresting and deporting Mr. Battisti was a message to the Brazilian left, as well as being a way to further the government&#8217;s foreign policy goals.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s Brazil has sought to ally itself with other new right-wing populist administrations throughout the western world, with Italy being among them. After being congratulated by Italy&#8217;s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini for the 2018 election result, Jair Bolsonaro promised to deliver Mr. Salvini a &#8220;present,&#8221; which, in this case, was the extradition of Cesare Battisti.

Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall. Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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