Belgian court angers Turkey with PKK ruling

Belgium’s Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin said the government’s position was that the PKK was a terrorist organization. (Courtesy Twitter)
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Updated 30 January 2020

Belgian court angers Turkey with PKK ruling

  • The ruling from the country’s top appeal court blocked the prosecution of 36 suspects linked to the PKK
  • The PKK has waged an insurgency against Turkey for decades that has claimed the lives of around 40,000 people

JEDDAH: Turkey has condemned Belgium’s top appeal court for saying that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is not a terror group and that people affiliated to it cannot be prosecuted by anti-terror laws.

The Tuesday ruling from the country’s top appeal court, which ratified a ruling of a lower court from last March, blocked the prosecution of 36 suspects linked to the PKK and asserted that the group’s armed struggle was “Turkey’s own domestic dispute.”

The PKK has waged an insurgency against Turkey for decades that has claimed the lives of around 40,000 people. It is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the EU and the US. The Council of Europe also has the group on its terror list.

Belgium’s Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin said the government’s position was clear and that the PKK was a terrorist organization, but the ruling has upset Turkey.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the decision and said it was an “explicit attempt to undermine the law” and accused Belgium of “hypocrisy.” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that the decision was “hypocritical” and “political.”

Tens of millions of Kurds are scattered across Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia but they do not have a state of their own. Attempts to set up their own state have been repressed, and the PKK was set up to fight for Kurdish independence in Turkey. 

“The decision of the court is the expression of the judiciary, which is strictly independent of the executive, and as such must be understood by all actors,” Goffin said. “Belgium will continue to defend the inclusion of the PKK and other Turkish terrorist groups on the European list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts and its judicial authorities will continue to cooperate with their European and other partners involved in the persecution of people at the PKK, as they have for years.”

Belgium’s ambassador to Turkey, Michel Malherbe, tweeted that the legal ruling was unconnected to the government’s position, and that the PKK “is and will continue to be” a terrorist organization.

Kurds in Belgium welcomed the court’s ruling, however, with community spokesman Orhan Kilic saying it would set new standards for further debate on the Kurdish issue and the actions of the Turkish state.

He also said Western governments and the EU may be in a better position to pressure Ankara for a peaceful solution.

Barin Kayaoglu, from the American University of Iraq Sulaimani, said the court decision would affect Belgium-Turkey relations.

“From now on, it is very unlikely that Belgium will receive any verbal or operational support from Turkey in counterterrorism,” he told Arab News. “Another side effect of this decision might be Turkey’s unwillingness to cooperate with the Belgian government in counterintelligence sharing to identify and track foreign fighters of Belgian nationality. Ankara has begun learning how to play hardball in recent years.”

The deadliest terror attack in Belgium was in Brussels in March 2016, when Daesh-claimed assaults killed 32 people and wounded hundreds of others.


Sri Lanka launches online portal for migrant workers amid virus scare

A municipal worker sprays disinfectant on an ambulance in Atulugama on March 29, 2020, after the town was sealed off by health authorities following fears that it could be a cluster for COVID-19 infection after two positive cases. (AFP)
Updated 31 min 17 sec ago

Sri Lanka launches online portal for migrant workers amid virus scare

  • Inquiries include the welfare of student populations, extension of visa permits, lack of financial support for the unemployed, non-payment of salaries, the closing down of commercial establishments and questions related to quarantine measures on arrival

COLOMBO: To help its overseas migrant workers deal with the coronavirus, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Relations has launched an online portal where citizens can voice their concerns, officials said on Sunday.

“All Sri Lankans living abroad were invited to register voluntarily on the platform . . . allowing the government to reach out and provide assistance during emergencies such as the Covid-19 outbreak. This platform will allow the ministry to access real-time data for quick action,” an official from the foreign ministry said on Sunday.

Since its launch on March 26, the “Contact Sri Lanka” portal has seen 17,000 registrations, with several saying they want to return home as soon as possible.

“A bulk of the 700 inquiries received through the portal relate to the possibility of a return to the country,” excerpts from a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and made available to Arab News, read on Sunday.

Registration by residents in the country will also allow the ministry to propose concrete policy decisions in critical response situations, such as evacuation measures, depending on the number of emergency assistance requests generated, the statement said.

It added that establishment of the portal was based on a “call made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for coordinated efforts by all government stakeholders to fight the Covid-19 outbreak and to harness digital technology to prompt faster and more efficient service delivery.”

Deputy General Manager of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) W. Leelaratne told Arab News that Sri Lankan employees, particularly at missions in the Middle East and Asia, would be working with host governments “to secure fair treatment and concessions for expatriate workers to the maximum extent possible.”

“This includes safeguarding the rights of the workers related to the payment of salaries and ensuring job security, ” he said.

Leelaratne said that due to the current global situation; the SLBFE has opened a 24/7 help desk for all migrant workers who could seek assistance by contacting the hotline.

Inquiries include the welfare of student populations, extension of visa permits, lack of financial support for the unemployed, non-payment of salaries, the closing down of commercial establishments and questions related to quarantine measures on arrival.

Dr. Anil Jasinghe, director general of Health Services, said that the number of coronavirus cases had risen to 110 with the detection of four new cases on Sunday.

Two of the four cases were arrivals from the south Indian city of Chennai, with Jasinghe saying that the government had requested all those flying in from Chennai to report to the nearest health facility for mandatory quarantine arrangements.

As an additional measure, the villages of Atulugama, Akurana and Kadayankulam have been placed under lockdown, while the districts of Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Puttalam and Jaffna have been declared high-risk zones with a full-day curfew to continue in these areas until further notice.