20th December, 2023

Day 6 – Trial against Kenan Ayaz: BKA gains knowledge about the PKK from emails

Trial against Kenan Ayaz: BKA gains knowledge about the PKK from emails
After three days of the Hamburg PKK trial against Kenan Ayaz were canceled due to illness, the trial has now continued with a personal statement by the defendant and the testimony of a BKA official.
The trial against Kenan Ayaz (official name: Ayas) has continued at the 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.
At yesterday’s hearing – three appointments had previously been canceled due to illness – Ayaz continued his statement on his personal circumstances, which he began in mid-November. He reported on the long period of imprisonment and torture he experienced in Turkey at a young age, his renewed six-month imprisonment in Erzîrom (tr. Erzurum) and the renewed threat of persecution in the so-called KCK trial, which was the reason why he went into exile in Cyprus.
Criticism of the judge and applause in the courtroom
After his long statement, which made it clear that a person with such a history can only either give up or continue to search for a solution to the Kurdish question, the judge moved on without transition to orders, including the so-called self-reading procedure. One visitor to the trial was shocked: “How can she simply switch to bureaucracy after these descriptions?” she asked, visibly irritated. The large audience, on the other hand, had understood the implications of Ayaz’s account and expressed this by applauding. Ayaz’s Cypriot defense lawyer Efstathios C. Efstathiou was also in the room. He reported on the trial to the Cyprus-based human rights monitoring organization Kenanwatch.
European arrest warrant issued against Ayaz just before NATO summit
After the statement on Ayaz’s personal circumstances, police officer Guido S., who is in charge of investigations into the PKK at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), was heard. S. is the highest ranking police officer in charge of PKK proceedings in Germany. He stated that the investigations into the structure of the PKK were being conducted in his department. In addition, he had personally investigated the case against Kenan Ayaz after the LKA Bremen had handed over the investigation.
The court and the defense repeatedly tried to find out why the European arrest warrant against Kenan Ayaz had only been applied for in May 2022, two years after the last relevant findings, by asking the witness questions. In its opening statement, the defense had pointed out that the European arrest warrant had been issued just before the NATO summit, at which the admission of Sweden and Finland to the military alliance was to be discussed. As is well known, Turkey had made its consent to the accession of these states dependent on the persecution and extradition of alleged PKK members. The witness S. visibly avoided answering this question. He said that this was solely the decision of the Federal Public Prosecutor General and even if they had spoken from time to time in the proceedings, he did not know why the arrest warrant was issued in May 2022. There had been no new findings at that time for a long time.
Witness S. also stated that he had not done much at all in the investigation proceedings. In July 2019, he merely suggested monitoring two mobile phone connections that Kenan Ayaz was presumed to be using. In terms of content, the officer was unable to establish any evidence of a “leading function” on the part of Ayaz. The name “Kenan” had only been mentioned a few times. When asked by defense lawyer Stephan Kuhn, S. explained that an interpreter had assigned the voice of Kenan Ayaz in conversations. The interpreter had only helped out at the BKA for a short time during the vacation period, there had been no quality control and there had already been translations, but they had been incomprehensible. The interpreter should have revised these. No other form of verification had taken place.
BKA gains insights into the PKK from emails
After the lunch break, Guido S. went into the alleged “structures” of the PKK. He believed he could deduce these structures from intercepted emails and other documents found during searches. The e-mails in question were about organizing events, such as Newroz events, planning actions and demonstrations for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan.
The witness then spoke at length about the so-called structural procedure. He repeatedly explained the difference between sections, regions and areas, but was unable to clarify who was supposed to have been responsible at which level. The difference between alleged “cadres” of the KCDK-E, the umbrella organization of Kurdish associations in Europe, and “PKK cadres” also remained vague. However, there were letters “which were only addressed to PKK cadres”.
Towards the end of the trial day, defense counsel Antonia von der Behrens filed a motion to summon the interpreter in the telecommunications surveillance in the Mustafa Çelik case, as he had significantly influenced the proceedings through his selection of translated texts. It was therefore urgently necessary to clarify what influence the translations tended to have on the investigation proceedings.
Hearing of Turkey experts at next trial
The trial against Kenan Ayaz continues on December 5. Günter Seufert, who led the establishment of the Center for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS) at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin from 2020 to June 2023, is scheduled to be heard on this date. The court has appointed Seufert as an expert witness on the Turkish-Kurdish conflict and the PKK.

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