Disputes rose between Belgium and Turkey concerning outcome of PKK affiliates’ court decision

Turkish authorities gave a letter of protest to Belgium’s Ambassador in Ankara on Monday. The letter discussed the recent drop of charges by Belgian prosecution against 36 citizens who were alleged to be affiliated members of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).  The case revolved around 36 alleged PKK affiliates who recruited young Kurds in Belgium and other European countries, and then dispatched them to military camps in the Middle East to receive combat training.

The Belgian Ambassador to Turkey Michel Malherbe was called over by the Turkish Foreign Ministry to explain the decision of prosecutors’ to drop charges in the appeal stage of the legal battle against the ring of 36 PKK affiliates. PKK is recognised as a terrorist organisation and a fierce rival of the Turkish state. The Belgian Ambassador refuted criticism arguing that the judiciary in Belgium runs independently from the government and judicial decisions often contravene political interests.

The Brussels appeal court on Friday decided that there was no plausible evidence to conclude that the 36 members were first of all tied to PKK and then perpetrated any terrorist offences. Under Belgian domestic statutes, people who partake in armed conflict cannot be recognised as terrorists. Even if ties between PKK and the 36 affiliates were proven, their dispatch of young conscripts to military camps in the Middle East to fight for Kurdish independence or participate in Syrian civil war, automatically drops any charges related to trans-national terrorism. This law contravenes in principle several states decision to consider PKK as a terrorist organisation, including the E.U. and the U.S., besides Turkey.

The Belgian court of appeals in September 2017 had argued on the case that PKK affiliates may have perpetrated terrorist activities, since the organisation itself is not exclusively partaking in ethnic and civil conflicts. As proof of evidence the court cited numerous assaults against state targets deep into Turkish soil – a region where no ethnic, religious or civil conflict currently takes place. The September 2017 decision overturned an earlier decree acquitting the 36 Kurdish affiliates from terrorism charges. The 8 March 2019 decision in turn invalidates the September 2017 equivalent. The Turkish Foreign Ministry reiterated its determination to continue appealing in Belgian courts until these suspects are framed as affiliate members of a terrorist organisation.

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