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.