18th December, 2023

Day 4 – Trial report from the 4th day of the main hearing in the proceedings against Kenan Ayas before the Hamburg Higher Regional Court

Trial report from the 4th day of the main hearing in the proceedings against Kenan Ayas before the Hamburg Higher Regional Court

Kenan Ayaz: “Resistance is another name for Kurdish survival”
The trial against Kurdish activist Kenan Ayaz has continued at Hamburg Higher Regional Court. A BKA official was called as a witness.

Another day of proceedings against the Kurdish activist Kenan Ayaz (official name: Ayas) has taken place at Hamburg Higher Regional Court. The Kurd, who was extradited from Cyprus to Germany in June, is charged with membership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) under Section 129b of the German Criminal Code (StGB). He is accused of organizing demonstrations and rallies and participating in fundraising activities. If convicted, he faces several years in prison.

The trial against the Kurdish activist Kenan Ayas continued at the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg on November 16, 2023. A BKA officer was summoned as a witness.

Witness Tobias H. was initially summoned to yesterday’s trial. The officer from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) had carried out telecommunications surveillance on Ayaz in 2019. In court, he described how the Federal Secret Service had issued a so-called official certificate about the accused. The BKA had been given the task of identifying the person with the alias “Kenan”. A YouTube video in which Ayas talks about criticism of capitalism was provided for this purpose.

“Urgent action for Mexmûr” cadre instruction?

The BKA was to check whether the person named in the video as Kenan Ayas was the person under surveillance and whether a specific cell phone could be assigned to him. To this end, a personal check and location check of the phone was carried out on a certain day. Ayaz then actually identified himself with his Cypriot passport. Among other things, the phone was used to send an instruction that an “urgent action for Mexmûr” – meaning a Kurdish refugee camp in northern Iraq – should be initiated. In addition, a “Sinevizyon” (presentation using a projector) had been requested and an agreement had been made to “visit sick people”. The official saw this as evidence that cadre instructions had been given.

Defense: No serious investigation proceedings

The lawyer Antonia von der Behrens asked whether there was any further evidence that the cell phone in question was constantly used by Ayas, which the witness denied. H. also explained that he had evaluated the Turkish-language online presence of the “Hêzên Parastina Gel” (People’s Defense Forces, HPG for short) – but without being able to speak Turkish himself. He had researched whether the armed forces had carried out “attacks” or “battles”, but could not specify whether these had taken place on Turkish or Iraqi territory, as he could not identify the locations, such as “commando hills”.

After the lunch break, defense attorney Antonia von der Behrens explained that the basic assumption of the defense had been confirmed: There had been no serious investigation, nothing had been done apart from the telephone surveillance that could prove Ayas’ alleged PKK membership. For two years, nothing had happened with this telephone surveillance, then it was brought out and the arrest warrant was applied for, criticized the Berlin lawyer.

Afterwards, some time was spent with the public prosecutor’s office rejecting various motions of the defense, including the self-reading procedure. Both sides agreed to dispense with the witness Mustafa Çelik. Kenan Ayas then began to give an extensive explanation of his personal background. His personal story is exemplary of the cruelty that Kurds have had to endure for more than a century. “Resistance is another name for Kurdish survival,” Ayas explained.

Resistance as a tradition

His grandfather prevented the Christian Suryoye from their village in Tur Abdin from falling victim to the genocide of 1915. Later, his grandfather had to flee to Syria because he had been involved in the uprising of Şêx Seîdê Pîran (Sheikh Said). Ayas’ account became a history lesson for the Midyad region, which is located in the northern Kurdish province of Mêrdîn (tr. Mardin). According to Ayaz, his entire family had grown up with the knowledge of the resistance against the genocide of Assyrians and Yezidis.

The defendant also gave an impressive description of the Turkish military coup on September 12, 1980 and the torment of the Kurdish children who were beaten in schools and forced to suppress their mother tongue. This was particularly painful for Kenan Ayas because he could not express himself in writing in his mother tongue. In 1993, he was arrested at the age of 18 with his brother, who was just 13, and tortured for days. The brother never fully recovered from the ordeal. The arrest and later conviction was based on a statement obtained under torture. The traitor, one Mehmet Tuncay, was later murdered.

In the early 1990s, the so-called scorched earth policy prevailed in Kurdistan as a means of state “counterinsurgency”. Thousands of Kurdish villages were razed to the ground by the Turkish army and many people were forced to flee. Ayas said that forces of the deep state were in power in Turkey at the time and were working exclusively to keep the war going. Political actors such as former Prime Minister Turgut Özal, who were striving for a solution to the Kurdish question, were murdered. There was not enough time for Ayas to present his entire statement and he will continue at the next trial date.

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