The Turkish justice minister has sent an angry letter to his Belgian counterpart, Koen Geens, complaining about a recent ruling by the Court of Cassation which declared the Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK is not a terrorist organisation.
“This verdict is unacceptable, and causes deep wounds in Turkey,” said the letter from minister Abdulhamit Gül. The court was ruling on a trial of 30 members of the PKK accused of being members of a terrorist organisation.
“This organisation is responsible for more than 40,000 deaths in Turkey,” Gül writes. “The ruling is completely at odds with Belgian legislation and international law.”
The Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê or PKK was founded in 1978, and has more recently vowed to overthrow the government of Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Ostensibly a political organisation, it also has a military wing known by various names, most recently the People’s Defence Forces (HPG), and a women’s armed wing, the YJA-STAR.
The PKK has been accused of being involved in armed rebellion, as well as activities more common to terrorist groups, including the attempted assassination of politicians, the murder of civilians, the use of child soldiers and suicide bombers, as well as being financed with the proceeds of drugs trafficking.
An official Turkish government complaint about a court ruling seems unusual as Belgium operates on the principle of the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary. To make the government’s position clear, immediately following the Cassation ruling, foreign affairs minister Philippe Goffin issued a statement. “The standpoint of the Belgian government is unambiguous: the PKK is a terrorist organisation,” he said. “The ruling of the Court of Cassation is the expression of the opinion of the judiciary, which is strictly independent of the executive, and it is thus that the situation has to be seen.”
Belgium relies on good relations with Turkey for the tracking of Syria fighters from here who are still in the region.
Goffin went on. “Belgium will continue to defend the inclusion of the PKK and other Turkish terrorist groups like the DHKP/C and the TAC on European lists of persons, groups and other entities involved in terrorist acts, and our judicial authorities will continue to cooperate with European and other partners involved in the prosecution of PKK members, as it has done for years.”
Geens’ office, meanwhile, said he has not yet received any letter from the Turkish minister, which was originally reported in the Turkish press.