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.


Twenty-six held over migrant lorry tragedy in Britain

Updated 42 min 32 sec ago

Twenty-six held over migrant lorry tragedy in Britain

  • The migrants — 31 men and eight women — were found dead in the truck in an industrial zone east of London in October
  • Police swooped in a series of raids around Brussels and Paris as part of a probe also involving British and Irish investigators

BRUSSELS: Police in Belgium and France have arrested 26 suspected people smugglers over the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in a refrigerated truck in Britain last year.
The migrants — 31 men and eight women — were found dead in the truck in an industrial zone east of London in October, sparking an international outcry.
The driver of the lorry has already admitted manslaughter over the deaths but Tuesday’s arrests targeted the ring of smugglers suspected of organizing the migrants’ journey.
Police swooped in a series of raids around Brussels and Paris as part of a probe also involving British and Irish investigators.
In Belgium — where some of the victims stayed before their fateful journey — police held 13 people, including 11 Vietnamese nationals.
“The network set up by the smugglers is suspected of having likely transported up to several dozen people every day for several months,” Belgian federal prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday.
“The organization focused on transporting refugees from Asia, particularly from Vietnam.”
Prosecutors suspect the gang organized the transport of the Vietnamese migrants in the container where they died.
Most of those arrested in France are also Vietnamese, according to an investigation source.
The probe has discovered that the migrants who died were loaded onto the truck in northern France, and that the network continued its operations even after the tragedy, charging 15,000 to 20,000 euros to cross from France to Britain.
Even the coronavirus lockdown did not stop the gang’s smuggling activities, the source said.
The tragedy shone a spotlight on the extraordinary dangers migrants are willing to risk to reach Britain, with some paying smugglers up to $40,000 for the perilous journey.
Post-mortem tests found the victims died from lack of oxygen and overheating, and one sent a poignant text message to her family in Vietnam as she lay dying in the truck.
The victims came from impoverished and remote corners of central Vietnam, a hotspot for people willing to embark on dangerous journeys in the hope of striking it rich abroad.
Many are smuggled illegally through Russia or China, often left owing huge sums to their traffickers and ending up working on cannabis farms or in nail salons.
The driver of the lorry, Maurice Robinson of Northern Ireland, last month pleaded guilty to manslaughter over the 39 deaths.
Four other men are on trial in London over the tragedy, while another man, Ronan Hughes, is facing extradition from Ireland to Britain on 39 counts of manslaughter and one of conspiracy to commit unlawful immigration.
Hughes is accused of organizing and controlling the drivers in the trafficking operation.