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Suspected Turkish killer of Su-24 pilot may be handed over to Russia – Justice Ministry

Alparslan Celik, the suspected killer of Russia's Su-24 bomber pilot, may be handed over to Moscow under the Russian-Turkish agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Cases and Extradition, Russian Deputy Justice Minister Maxim Travnikov said.

"In theory, yes," Travnikov said when asked if Celik could be extradited to Russia.

Agreement with Turkey on legal assistance and extradition

Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, has ratified an agreement between Russia and Turkey on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Cases and Extradition.

The document was signed in Ankara on December 1, 2014.

Under the agreement, the sides are committed to providing legal assistance to each other during an investigation, prosecution or other legal proceedings, and also to mutually extradite individuals located on the territory of one another's countries for criminal prosecution or executing a sentence by the requesting country for extraditable offences. These crimes include those that are punishable by imprisonment of no less than a year or a more of severe punishment.

Over the past two years, Russia and Turkey have sent 12 and 11 extradition requests to each other, respectively, Russian deputy justice minister said. Turkey's authorities have made only one decision on the extradition requests, while the other 11 remain unanswered, he said. "We hope that the agreement will help us make progress on this matter."

Turkey has still not ratified the agreement. Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee for Foreign Affairs Leonid Slutsky said, "We hope that the Turkish parliament will respond proportionally and will carry out this ratification." There are no obstacles here and all the issues are of a technical character," he added.

The suspects in the downing of Russia's Su-24 bomber aircraft in November 2015 may be subject to the agreement and may be handed over to Moscow, Travnikov said.

"At the same time, the treaty includes certain provisions that create obstacles for extradition on some grounds. In particular, if there are grounds to believe that these persons may be persecuted due to political or other considerations," he said.

Downing of Russian Su-24

The Turkish Air Force shot down the ill-fated Russian Sukhoi-24 bomber on November 24, 2015. Ankara then claimed that the plane had strayed into Turkish airspace. The Russian Defense Ministry said that the plane had remained in Syrian airspace the entire time. The crew - the pilot and navigator - ejected themselves. The pilot, Oleg Peshkov, was killed from a ground-based machine-gun round while descending by parachute. The navigator was rescued and taken to base. During the rescue operation, a Mi-8 helicopter involved was lost and a contract marine was killed.

Four days later, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on measures to ensure Russia's national security and protect Russian citizens from criminal and other unlawful actions and on imposing special economic sanctions against Turkey. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan apologized in late June 2016 for the incident and relations between the two countries started normalizing.

Alparslan Celik, a Turkish ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves member, suspected of killing the Russian pilot, was detained by Turkey's law enforcement authorities in March 2016, but he denies the charges.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 17Feb17]

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