1st November, 2023

Joint Press release of the defense of Kenan Ayas

On November 3, 2023, the trial of the Kurdish activist Kenan Ayas will begin before the eyes of the Cypriot public at the Higher Regional Court in Hamburg, Germany.

In 1993, at the age of 18, Kenan Ayas was illegally imprisoned in Turkey for 11 years and subjected to unimaginable torture. After his release, he was again imprisoned and mistreated for six months for campaigning for a Kurdish candidate. In the end, even the Turkish judiciary did not consider this a crime, and he was acquitted. In 2010, however, he was charged in a big show trial for his educational work with Kurdish youth and is still wanted by the Turkish regime. He was able to flee to Cyprus, where he was granted refugee status.

In March 2023, Kenan Ayas was arrested in Cyprus on the basis of a European arrest warrant requested by Germany. The arrest triggered a wave of protests in Cyprus, where the Kurdish movement is seen as an ally against the aggressor Turkey and in the fight against the terror of the Islamic State. Members of almost all parties represented in the Cypriot parliament spoke out against the extradition of Kenan Ayas to Germany. Nevertheless, the extradition took place at the beginning of June 2023.

In Germany, Kenan Ayas is accused of being a member of the PKK and is therefore charged with being a member of a “foreign terrorist organization” under section 129b of the German Criminal Code. He is not accused of committing any act of violence. The charge is based solely on the alleged facts that over a period of less than two years, he communicated and met with a large number of people in Germany on behalf of the PKK, some of whom are also classified as members of the PKK by German law enforcement authorities, and that he also organized legal demonstrations and rallies and participated in collecting money.

The trial of Kenan Ayas takes place ten years after the first Kurdish person in Germany was sentenced for membership of the PKK under section 129b German Criminal Code by the Hamburg Higher Regional Court and thirty years after the PKK was banned in Germany.

The case of Kenan Ayas also shows impressively that this long-standing prosecution of Kurdish activists under section 129b German Criminal Code in Germany is in Turkey’s interest. For decades, Turkey has been vigorously pursuing the prosecution of alleged supporters of the PKK, Kurdish institutions and associations in Europe. This was especially evident recently when Erdoğan, by withholding his approval of NATO accession, effectively forced Sweden to criminalize peaceful Kurdish activities. As in Germany, such activities have been prosecuted as terrorism in Sweden since June 2023.

Therefore, the Cypriot public is closely following the German criminal case against Kenan Ayas. Giorgos Koukoumas, Member of the Cypriot Parliament and Vice-Chairman of the Human Rights Commission, will be in Hamburg to observe the beginning of the trial.

Berlin, Frankfurt, Nicosia, November 1st, 2023


Advocate Antonia von der Behrens, Berlin,
Attorney Stephan Kuhn, Frankfurt am Main
Advocate Efstathios C. Efstathiou, Nicosia, Cyprus

 

Information on the proceedings:
Place: Hamburg Higher Regional Court, Sievekingpl. 2, 20355 Hamburg, Room 237
Time: 9.30 a.m., admission to the courtroom will start at 9.00 a.m.
Dates of the hearing: 03.11., 07.11., 13.11., 16.11., 23.11., 24.11., 27.11., 30.11., 05.12., 07.12.,11.12., 14.12., 19.12., 20.12. and 21.12.2023.

The time and dates of the hearing can be changed at short notice.

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