Belgium Court of Cassation: PKK is not a terrorist organization

[By Maxime Azadi] BRUSSELS — The Court of Cassation of Belgium ratified the lower court’s judgement and ruled that PKK is not a terrorist organization.

During the first hearing held on January 14, the Court of Cassation prosecutor requested ratification of the ruling of the Court of Appeals in the PKK case. A lower court prosecutor and lawyers for the Turkish state requested time to respond to the opinion of the Court of Cassation prosecutor.

During the second hearing held on Tuesday, January 28, the Court of Cassation prosecutor did not take the floor. According to sources following the case, this indicates that the prosecutor maintained his position from the previous hearing for the ratification of the Court of Appeals ruling.

Announcing the verdict in the afternoon, the Court ratified the Court of Appeals ruling.

Jan Fermon, the Belgium lawyer in the case who has led the successful defence of the Kurdish activists, spoke to ANF and said the following: “This is a final verdict which is of great importance in the discussion on the PKK ongoing for a long time. I find the verdict is consistent with international law. It is a fair ruling. I hope it will contribute for a political solution to the Kurdish question on European level. The court ruling has opened a new door on the side of Europe. It has paved the way for a profound concentration on a political solution.”

According to Fermon, this ruling could also have an influence on the Belgian government’s attitude towards the EU list of terrorist organizations. “This is not a political but a legal ruling. It will have not direct but indirect influence on the government of Belgium which will need to reconsider its approach towards the EU list.”

During the hearing, the federal prosecutor requested the Court of Cassation to submit a question to the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg. According to Fermon, the federal prosecutor argued that the Court of Justice opinion on conflicts was ambiguous and requested a question on how it should be interpreted in domestic law. The Court of Cassation, however, rejected this request.

In November 2018, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg disqualified the arguments presented for the PKK to be added on the list of terrorist organizations from 2014 to 2017, and cancelled the list. England in the name of the EU appealed against the ruling and PKK was automatically put on the list again in 2018. While the arguments for the list have not changed, the Kurdish party appealed against the new list in March 2019.

Aydar: An historic ruling

Speaking to ANF on the case, KNK’s Zübeyir Aydar said the verdict was historic, adding; “It has been a long time, more than 10 years since the operation. We were faced with unfair accusations. We were then subjected to operations and arrests. The verdict announced today acknowledges the unfairness that the representatives of the Kurdish people have been through.”

Aydar continued: “The Court of Cassation ruling recognizes the fact that Kurdistan freedom struggle cannot be accused of terrorism, that what is in question is not terror but a war, and the PKK is a party of this war. This is a first in Europe and we hope it will set an example to other countries.”

Background

In 2006, an investigation had been launched against 37 Kurdish politicians including Remzi Kartal, Zübeyir Aydar and Adem Uzun in Belgium. On November 3, 2016, the Investigations Bureau in Brussels ruled that the PKK is not a terrorist organization and rejected the lawsuit. The Federal Prosecutor appealed this ruling. Upon appeals by the Turkish and Belgian prosecutors’ offices, the parties had been heard at the court of appeals on May 9, 2017.

The lawsuit to have the PKK removed from the EU’s terrorist organizations list was heard at the European Court of Justice on April 16, 2018.

The CoJ ruled similarly that the PKK’s inclusion in the EU’s list of terrorist organizations was unrightful.

On 8 March 2019, Brussels Court of Appeals heard the appeal submitted by Belgium’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office against the ruling that the PKK’s armed struggle in Northern Kurdistan is “Turkey’s domestic dispute”.

The court stated once again that the PKK’s activity is not terrorism and ruled that there is no grounds for prosecution regarding the 37 Kurdish politicians including KONGRA-GEL Co-chair Remzi Kartal and KCK Executive Council Member Zübeyir Aydar.

The ruling thus concluded the investigation launched by Belgium’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office against Kurdish activists in 2006. The same court identified the PKK as “an international armed organization which is not a state” on September 15, 2017. The court pointed to the Turkish state violence, ruling that the PKK was responding to said violence, and that there is no terrorist activity to speak of. The ruling thus stipulated that the PKK cannot be tried on terrorism laws in Belgium.

The Turkish state and a lower court prosecutor then appealed against the ruling of the Belgian court.

[From ANF News, January 28, 2020]