2nd September, 2023

Five Observations On the Kenan Ayas Case by George Koukoumas

A Kurdish fighter, a recognized refugee to whom the Republic of Cyprus granted asylum, a man who is not accused of any criminal or terrorist act, was handed over by the Cypriot state to Germany to be tried on charges of terrorism. Some remarks on the matter:

First. Firstly, Germany did not just came up with the idea of prosecuting Kenan Ayas. This persecution is being carried out at the request of Turkey and the Erdogan government, which wants to suppress the Kurdish movement, not only inside Turkey and in Syria but everywhere it operates in the world. The Christodoulides government, by deciding to execute the arrest warrant for Ayaz, is on the one hand giving credentials of allegiance to Germany, but on the other hand it is executing the demands of Turkey itself. Until last March, the whole world thought that Cyprus would be the last country on the planet to do so. The surrender of Ayaz by Cyprus is not only an embarrassment similar to Greece’s surrender of Ocalan. It is also an exposure of hypocrisy. The same people who sell nationalism by the scoop at fiestas and balconies, when ordered by the “partners”, do not hesitate to make territorial bows even to Turkey.

Second. Turkey manages to have Germany at its service, which is currently launching, on behalf of Ankara, the persecution of hundreds of Kurds all over Europe. This is because Turkey is exploiting the network of visible and invisible military-political links between Berlin and Ankara, the first of which is, of course, the gigantic arms trade. But the main force that encourages, legitimises and facilitates Turkey’s ‘work’ against the Kurdish movement is none other than the benevolent institution called NATO, as evidenced by the conditions to which Sweden and Finland are subjected in order to be admitted to the Alliance. After all, NATO and the EU have for years now included the PKK in the so-called terrorist organisations. The demand to remove the PKK from the, in any case arbitrary, ‘terror lists’ is more urgent than ever.

Third. Anyone who reads the decisions of the Cypriot judiciary on the Ayaz case will not find, no matter how hard he searches, the slightest accusation of any offence committed by Kenan Ayaz. The European arrest warrant was based on the reasoning of the German authorities that since Ayaz is politically active in a Kurdish organisation, which they arbitrarily linked to the PKK, and since the PKK is classified – again arbitrarily – as a terrorist organisation, then he is himself a terrorist. The persecution of political action in 2023 should awaken and arouse everyone. And because the times we live in are evil, perhaps even dark, let us paraphrase the line of the well-known poem: ‘when they came for the Kurds, I did not speak because I am not a Kurd…’. The continuation is well known.

Fourth. Not only could Cyprus deny the publication of Kenan Ayaz, but it was obliged to refuse it. And it was obliged not only morally and politically, but also legally. Specifically, Cypriot law defines as a ground for mandatory non-execution of a European arrest warrant the case where the person sought is being prosecuted for his political beliefs. (Article 13(d) of the European Arrest Warrant and Surrender Procedures of Wanted Persons between EU Member States Act 2004). Similarly, the European framework on arrest warrants underlines the possibility and/or obligation for a State to refuse to surrender a person for whom a European arrest warrant has been issued if he is being prosecuted for his political opinions or if his situation may deteriorate because of them (point 12 of the preamble to the EU Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States, 2002/584/JHA). The Government’s excuse that it was a judicial procedure and “could not be involved” is not valid since the Ministry of Justice has, by law, a role as a central authority assisting in the execution of the warrant. I wonder who will take responsibility for what the Ministry of Justice did and did not file? I wonder who will take responsibility for what the Department of Justice did and did not file in District Court?

Fifth. The Kenan Ayaz case has been and is proving to be a touchstone for the honesty and dignity of Cyprus and Cypriots. The government and the judiciary of Cyprus will obviously not be saved from the judgment of history for this stain of shame on the country’s resume. But many others will not escape this judgment. Who has spoken and who has been silent all this time in the face of this crime, this unworthiness of the Cypriot state? The Cypriot Left, however, has been present from the very first moment and all these months in the battle of solidarity with Kenan Ayaz. With our presence in the demonstrations and rallies, outside the Supreme Court, outside the Central Prison, in the streets of Nicosia. With dozens of public interventions by AKEL and its leadership for the non-extradition of Kenan Ayaz, for his detention conditions, for the release of the Kurdish hunger strikers outside the Supreme Court. By registering the issue of the legal and political management of the Ayaz case with the Parliamentary Legal Committee in order to hold the government accountable for its decisions. By raising the issue of the detention conditions of Mr. Ayaz in the Human Rights Commission before the leadership of the Ministry of Justice and the Central Prison. Not alone the Left Wing, of course, but together with many others with whom we may have minor and major differences, but we are united by the justice of Kenan Ayaz, solidarity in the struggle for the freedoms and rights of the Kurds, but also by the dignity of our own country. The main thing, however, is that this battle continues in view of the start of the trial in Hamburg, and that is why the solidarity of all of us will continue. And on the streets and in the Parliament, and in Cyprus and in Germany and wherever it is needed.

 

“For me, well, the most surprising thing,

most imposing, most mysterious and most grand,

is a man who is obstructed from walking

is a man being chained.”

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