3rd November, 2023

Day 1 – The Higher Regional Court of Hamburg shows its intentions

03.11.2023

Trial report from the first day of the main hearing in the proceedings against Kenan Ayas before the Hamburg Higher Regional Court (report by ANF from 04.11.2023 (https://anfdeutsch.com/aktuelles/deckname-kenan-pkk-prozess-in-hamburg-eroffnet-39672)

 “Code name Kenan”: PKK trial opens in Hamburg

The trial against Kenan Ayaz (official spelling: Ayas) has begun at Hamburg Higher Regional Court amid great public interest. The Kurdish activist is accused of being a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) under sections 129a/b of the German Criminal Code (StGB). Ayaz was arrested at Larnaca Airport in Cyprus in March 2023 on the basis of a European arrest warrant requested by the Federal Court of Justice and extradited to Germany at the beginning of June. Since then, he has been detained in Hamburg’s Holstenglacis remand prison under stricter prison conditions.

Solidarity with Kenan Ayaz from Cyprus

At the start of the trial, the “Free Kenan” solidarity committee called for the immediate release of Kenan Ayaz at a rally in front of the Hamburg Higher Regional Court. In a speech, Giorgos Koukoumas (AKEL), a member of parliament from Cyprus, pointed out the political background to the trial and said that Kenan Ayaz was not accused of any acts of violence. The AKEL politician reported on the great solidarity with Ayaz and the protests against his extradition to Cyprus. He called for the PKK to be removed from the EU list of terrorist organizations and expressed his full support for the Kurdish people’s struggle for dignity.

Great public interest

The hearing was observed by numerous media representatives and dozens of other people, including Cypriot MP Koukoumas, the co-chair of the Hamburg Left Party parliamentary group, Cansu Özdemir, and former HDP MPs Selma Irmak and Nihat Akdoğan, who live in exile in Germany. Not all those interested were allowed into the auditorium due to a lack of space, and queues formed outside the courtroom due to the court’s poor planning.

Kenan Ayaz greeted with standing ovations

The defendant showed the victory sign as he entered the courtroom and was greeted by standing ovations from the trial observers. During the identification procedure, the defendant, who was born in Midyad in the province of Mêrdîn (tr. Mardin), stated that the spelling of his surname as “Ayas” and his date of birth (April 1, 1974) had been incorrectly registered with the Turkish authorities. His mother had told him that he was only born in 1975, Ayaz explained and took the opportunity to greet the large audience.

Assignment of second public defender rejected

At the beginning of the trial, Kenan Ayaz’s defense demanded the appointment of a second public defender. In her counter-submission, lawyer Antonia von der Behrens argued that the criminal division was composed of three judges and that the Federal Prosecutors Office was represented by two prosecutors, senior public prosecutor Dr. S. and public prosecutor W. Due to the size of the case file (44 volumes of wiretapped telephone conversations and 56 volumes of files relating to the PKK), an effective defense could not be handled by a single lawyer. Presiding Judge Wende-Spors refused that Stephan Kuhn, the second defense lawyer of Kenan Ayas, be appointed and paid for by the court. Even though lawyer Kuhn has not been appointed by the court he will still remain on Kenan Ayas defense team. In addition to von der Behrens and Kuhn, the defense team also includes the Cypriot lawyer Efstathios C. Efstathiou.

Not charged with acts of violence

The indictment does not accuse Kenan Ayaz of committing an act of violence. The indictment is based solely on the fact that he communicated and met with a large number of people in northern Germany and North Rhine-Westphalia between 2018 and 2020 on behalf of the PKK, some of whom are also classified as members of the PKK by German law enforcement authorities. He is also alleged to have organized legal demonstrations and rallies and participated in fundraising activities.

Politically motivated criminal proceedings

After the indictment was read out, the defense made a detailed opening statement in which the political nature of the proceedings was pointed out. They argued that there are many indications that Kenan Ayaz was charged because the Turkish regime wanted it that way. The defense lawyers were able to prove that the Office of the Federal Prosecutor had waited two years to apply for a European arrest warrant against their client and that this application was only made shortly before the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June 2022. During this summit, the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO was discussed and Erdogan publicly pressured NATO countries to criminalize the Kurdish movement and extradite politically active Kurds and suspected members of the PKK to Turkey.

Closure of the proceedings requested

After the opening statement, the defense filed a motion to dismiss the case against Kenan Ayaz, arguing that the Federal Ministry of Justice’s authorization to prosecute suspected PKK members, which is a prerequisite for these kinds of anti-terrorism charges, should be declared null and void by the court. The defense lawyers made it clear that this authorization to prosecute should not protect countries like Turkey. Turkey does not respect international law, but on the contrary commits acts of aggression against other states and violates the human rights of its citizens, especially the Kurds.

Kenan Ayaz: The Kurds are fighting for their existence

Kenan Ayaz also made a statement in support of his defense’s motion to dismiss. In his statement, he referred to the violations of international law by Turkey under Erdogan, the military actions against the Kurdish movement in Rojava and northern Iraq and against the Kurds in Turkey. He argued that the struggle of the Kurdish people in the face of this kind of violence and persecution by Turkey is a struggle for existence. He also denounced the ongoing Turkish occupation of Cyprus, stating that the same Turkish nationalist ideology that has led to this occupation is also driving the fight against the Kurds.

 

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