6th November, 2023

Kenan Ayas: Erdogan should be tried here today, by Alekos Michaelides Phileleftheros

The trial of Kenan Ayas began on Friday with the opening statements at the Hamburg District Court. The Kurdish fighter appeared to be thriving, despite the suffering from the particularly harsh conditions of his detention. Outside the court, a solidarity event was held by Kurdish, Cypriot and German activists. His lawyer in Cyprus, Efstathios Efstathiou, also joined the defence team, while AKEL MP and press spokesman George Koukoumas was present at the trial.

In the eight-page opening statement of  Kenan Ayas’ defence team, it is stated that since the first conviction of the Kurdish fighter in 2013, conditions in Turkey and the Turkish-Kurdish conflict have changed substantially. However, this has not changed the actions of the German Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office in acting against alleged members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Instead, prosecutions are systematically expanding to include people who are not even defined as cadres. It is also stressed that it has been shown that Turkey is run by a dictatorial regime which is harshly persecuting the Kurds by means that are illegal under international law.

The fact that the Kurds in Germany continue to be persecuted as terrorists is due to the pressure exerted by Turkey and is based on Article 129B, which may be used only on the instructions of the Federal Ministry of Justice. Therefore, the prosecution of Kenan Ayas is political.

As underlined, the indictment accuses Ayas of social and political behaviour that is not normally punishable in Germany. He is accused of participating in the organisation of demonstrations, of communicating with persons allegedly belonging to the PKK, and of fundraising. He is not accused of any act of violence. The statement echoes what was heard both in the Larnaca District Court and in the Supreme Court in Cyprus, regarding the cooperation between the German and Turkish prosecution authorities and the meeting of the German Attorney General with Turkish President Erdogan in July 2022, a few days after the NATO summit.

It was also highlighted that Kenan Ayas is one of 151 defendants in the long-running Kurdish KCK trial that has been ongoing since 2010, an indication of the great interest from the Turkish regime in his person and educational work.

In particular, the defense team referred to a preliminary investigation against Ayas in May 2020 and a secret identity check in Cologne in November 2019. Also, a status report on the investigation of May 25, 2020, does not mention any suspicion of a crime by Kenan Ayas.

 

Reference was also made to messages and phone calls, allegedly evidence against him, but which do not prove participation in a terrorist organisation or the commission of a criminal act. It was also noted, in a supplementary statement by the defence team, that the Cypriot public has a great interest in the development of the trial of Kenan Ayas, not only because he is a political refugee in the Republic of Cyprus, but also because of the broad sympathy for the Kurdish patriotic movement.

Kenan Ayas: more a struggle for existence than a struggle for freedom

In his own statement and making a symbol of victory, Kenan Ayas apologized for speaking in Turkish, as his native language, Kurdish, was banned while he was growing up. He pointed out that the Turkish state systematically violated the dignity and identity of the Kurdish people. He stressed that the Kurdish struggle is more a struggle for existence than a struggle for freedom.

“Political rights for the Kurds are not up for discussion. The Kurds’ struggle for their dignity is considered terrorism by many states, especially Germany,” he added. “A people is being ruthlessly sacrificed for the sake of today’s economic interests.”

Kenan Ayas, who has not forgotten Cyprus, also referred at length to the Turkish occupation of his second homeland. “Before the eyes of the world, the people of Cyprus suffered a great massacre and genocide. Women were raped in front of their children. People were kidnapped and disappeared. The people of Cyprus are still searching for the bones of their children, fifty years of Turkish occupation,” he said with emotion: “When the Turkish state occupied the Kurdish territories and conducted a genocidal campaign, it did so under the cover of terrorism. But what is the justification for the invasion of Cyprus? Why do European states, especially Germany, accept the 50-year occupation of Cyprus by the Turkish state?”

To conclude by saying that Erdogan is violating human dignity, committing genocide and war crimes. “Erdogan should be tried here today, not me. But I am sorry to say that I am being tried here today, according to his request.”

Today, the defense filed a motion on behalf of Kenan Ayas to dismiss the panel of three judges because they showed bias against Kenan Ayas.

 

The defense had no choice but to make this extraordinary request because the court showed bias against Kenan Ayas by rejecting the defense’s request. The defense had requested that the newspaper article quoting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement about Kenan Ayas’ trial be considered as evidence and read in court.

 

The well-known German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) had summarized Erdoğan’s remarks in an article published on November 19 as follows: “The visit to the German capital had ‘opened a new chapter in our deep relations,’ Erdoğan said. He expressed his delight at a criminal trial at the Hamburg Higher Regional Court against an alleged official of the Kurdish terrorist group PKK. The man was arrested in Cyprus and extradited to Germany on the initiative of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office.” (See the press release of the defense from November 30, 2023).

 

The court rejected the request for the second time, arguing that Erdoğan’s statement had no relation to the case of Kenan Ayas. It was the second time that the defense had asked the court to allow this article to be part of the evidence. The defense had argued that Erdoğan’s statements showed that the extradition and trial of Kenan Ayas was in the interest of Turkey and that Kenan Ayas could be in danger after his release from prison because of the known habit of the Turkish secret service to operate outside of Turkey. In regard to both motions, the Public Prosecutor’s Office did not oppose the request but supported it by stating that there was an obvious connection between the article and the trial.

 

Despite the statement of the prosecution, the judges showed their determination not to deal with the Turkish influence on the trial. The judges have continuously tried to keep anything out of the trial that could indicate the political nature of the extradition request for Kenan Ayas and the charges against him.

 

Now another chamber of the Hamburg Higher Regional Court hast to decide on the motion to dismiss the judges. Until this decision is made, the trial will continue as scheduled.

 

 

Hamburg/Frankfurt/Nicosia, February 6, 2024

 

 

Attorney Antonia von der Behrens, Berlin

Attorney Stephan Kuhn, Frankfurt am Main

Attorney Efstathios C. Efstathiou, Nicosia, Cyprus

 

The FAZ article “Return to Turkey: Erdoğan calls Scholz the ‘other'” from November 19, 2023 can be found here:

https://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/rueckkehr-in-die-tuerkei-so-sieht-erdogan-seinen-besuch-in-berlin-19324031.html