“Turkish terror suspect arrested in Cayman” – the headline of Monday’s front page story is somewhat sensational. But what the situation calls for is a careful, measured and prudent approach: The key word going forward should be caution.
First, there has not been any indication, allegation or suggestion that 58-year-old German citizen Celal Kildag (who emigrated there from Turkey in 1980) posed a threat to the Cayman Islands. Our law enforcement personnel simply arrested Mr. Kildag on an international warrant after he and his wife arrived in Grand Cayman during a cruise vacation.
The risk to Cayman, rather, is reputational in nature.
Cayman is a very, very small jurisdiction that has found itself wedged between the wishes of two very large nations, amid a politically charged atmosphere, on an issue that could not be more serious. It concerns age-old ethnic strife, dictatorship and allegations of murder.
The immediate legal arguments around the extradition of Mr. Kildag are potentially complex. In itself, that is not a particular cause for concern, considering that our judiciary regularly punches far above Cayman’s weight class on the international scene, specifically in relation to our territory’s status as an international financial center.
Given the great sensitivity of Mr. Kildag’s possible extraction, and the potential diplomatic ramifications (among Germany, Turkey and the United Kingdom), we are sure that sufficient resources, guidance and support will be brought to bear on this case from members of Cayman’s judiciary, local attorneys and experts from overseas.
In terms of informing the public about this topic, context is crucial.
And the context is this: Mr. Kildag is accused by Turkish authorities of being involved in a long-running Kurdish separatist movement that is in open, violent conflict with the Turkish state. In 1980, Mr. Kildag fled Turkey and was granted political asylum in Germany, where he has lived freely (to our knowledge) as a law-abiding member of society, with his spouse, children and extended family.
The allegations Mr. Kildag faces involve acts carried out in 1988 (eight years after he left Turkey), “leading to the shooting and murder of two victims and the burning of two primary schools” in eastern Turkey.
Ever since a military coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed in July, the Erdogan government has arrested or detained tens of thousands of people throughout the country ostensibly accused of aiding the insurrection. The crackdown has swept up journalists, academics, prosecutors, police, military officers, judges and civil officials, including Kurdish political leaders.
In November, some 25,000 people took to the streets of Cologne, Germany, to protest the actions of President Erdogan and his government.
President Erdogan blames U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for masterminding the coup attempt from afar, and the Turkish government is currently demanding his extradition from America.
Put another way, the arrest of Mr. Kildag in Cayman, and his possible extradition to Turkey, poses a Pandora’s box of troubles for our tiny jurisdiction. The only thing black-and-white about this situation is the color of potential international headlines.
It is imperative, therefore, that our officials exercise great caution when reviewing the extradition application, and they should not hesitate to use the full 45-day window they have for deliberation. While our judiciary will weigh the legal aspects of the case, ultimately it falls upon Governor Helen Kilpatrick to certify the extradition request – or not.
We trust that the process will proceed with oversight from the U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office and any other relevant agency. The magnitude of the situation certainly warrants it.