21st December, 2023

Day 9 – Many questions to the expert witness in the trial against Kenan Ayas

Many questions to expert witnesses in the trial against Kenan Ayaz
In the PKK trial against the Kurdish activist Kenan Ayaz in Hamburg, many questions have been put to the expert witness Günter Seufert. The expert hearing will continue in January, while the next hearing is on Thursday 21/12/2023.
On Tuesday, another day of hearings took place in Hamburg in the trial against the Kurdish politician Kenan Ayaz (official name Ayas), who is charged with participation of a foreign terrorist organization before the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court under §§129a/b StGB. The auditorium was well filled and some members of the Cypriot observatory Kenanwatch had traveled to observe the trial.
Dr. Günter Seufert, an expert on Turkey, was invited for the second time to present a court-appointed expert opinion on the PKK. He began by talking about the organizational structure and financing of the PKK. He had no findings of his own to present, but quoted from constitutional protection reports from several federal states from 2022. The various associations that represent Kurdish interests are neither independent of the PKK nor identical to it, the expert said.
Question from the public prosecutor about poison gas attacks
The majority of clashes between the PKK and the Turkish army take place abroad and not on Turkish territory, Seufert reported. At a later point, when asked by the public prosecutor about poison gas attacks by the Turkish army on the PKK guerrillas, he explained that Turkey does not allow investigations. In October 2022, the chairwoman of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), Şebnem Korur Fincancı, was arrested in Turkey for advocating an investigation into the use of chemical weapons in southern Kurdistan/northern Iraq. When asked by the judge where these poison gas attacks had taken place, Seufert explained “in northern Syria”. In fact, however, the systematic use of chemical weapons by the Turkish army is taking place in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
“Attacks by the PKK”
When asked about PKK attacks, Seufert reported that he had been able to identify 13 attacks carried out by the PKK after the end of the peace process in 2015. He cited Wikipedia as one of his sources. The judge was surprised by the figures, for example in a judgment by the Koblenz Higher Regional Court, the PKK had claimed responsibility for 468 attacks in 2018. According to Seufert, he considered the figures given by the guerrilla army HPG to be “propaganda”. The fact that the HPG, as a warring party in an armed conflict, regularly reports on guerrilla resistance actions in the north and south of Kurdistan was apparently ignored.
Breaking off the peace negotiations
After the lunch break, Kenan Ayaz put further questions to the expert, including the breakdown of the peace negotiations between the Turkish state and the PKK. According to Seufert, the responsibility for this lies with Erdogan and the state. The Turkish side had not agreed to “necessary and indispensable” conditions from the Kurdish side for a peaceful solution.
Criticism of the analysis of the KCK system
Ayaz criticized Seufert’s analysis of the connection between the Kurdish umbrella organization KCK and the PYD party active in northern Syria/Rojava. The latter is not automatically part of the KCK system, as Seufert explained, but refers to the ideas of Abdullah Öcalan and historical developments in the Middle East, but also to European democratic culture. Not all those shouting “Jin, Jiyan, Azadî” belonged to the PKK, although this slogan originated from Öcalan, Ayaz commented. Seufert explained that he was avoiding an answer himself. What is important is how big self-determination is in reality.
Role of JITEM
A further question from Ayaz related to the role of JITEM. This is the name given to the informal secret service of the Turkish military police, which is responsible for at least four-fifths of the unsolved murders in northern Kurdistan – and whose existence was denied by the state for years. Ayaz asked whether Seufert was aware that crimes such as the killing of civilians attributed to the PKK had actually been carried out by JITEM members in PKK uniforms. As an example, Ayaz cited JITEM founder Arif Doğan, who had admitted to being involved in such killings. Seufert did not know this name.
No knowledge of Esat Oktay Yıldıran?
The Cypriot defense lawyer Efstathios Efstathiou then asked Dr. Seufert whether he was aware that Esat Oktay Yıldıran, senior officer and torturer of the military prison in Amed (tr. Diyarbakir) after the 1980 coup, had previously been involved in the atrocities during the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus. The name meant nothing to him, said Seufert, but “experienced military men” had certainly been deployed.
Yıldıran was shot dead by PKK militants in 1987 in retaliation for cruel torture in Istanbul.
Questions about Hüda Par and the elections in Turkey
Defense attorney Antonia von der Behrens asked the expert witness about the role of the Hüda Par party. Seufert explained that Hüda Par was regarded as the ideological continuation of Hezbollah. Members of Hezbollah who had allegedly committed murders of PKK supporters had been released from prison, which had been a major scandal in the Turkish press. The Hüda Par had drummed up support for the AKP and the three to five seats it had won in the parliamentary elections in May had helped the AKP to victory. The defense lawyer went on to ask whether the last elections in Turkey were free and fair. Seufert explained that everyone was able to vote freely, but that opposition was severely restricted.
When asked whether the expert witness knew the number of Kurds killed in the fight against IS, Seufert said that he had no information. Von der Behrens also pointed out that the attack in Ankara in October 2023 was not aimed at the parliament, as claimed by the expert, but at the Ministry of the Interior, i.e. the police. The defense lawyer also asked Seufert to evaluate the sources he had used. According to Seufert, the so-called think tank SETA used to produce serious analyses, but today it is a propaganda apparatus of the Turkish government and has lost quality.
Expert hearing to be continued in January
Dr. Seufert’s hearing will continue on 10 January 2024 at 1 pm. The next day of the hearing is on Thursday, 21/12 at 8.30 a.m. there will be a rally in front of the High Court of Hamburg. 

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