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September trial in Belgium

28. August 2006

We call upon all democratic, progressive, left forces in Europe to observe the trial of appeal against left activists from Turkey in Belgium

Trial date: September 11, 2006
Appeal court, Ghent, Belgium

September 11th not only stands for the ‘World Trade Center attack’ in New York in 2001; in 2006 it stands for the day the appeal takes place in the most spectacular anti-terror trial against the DHKP-C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front), concerning the events in Knokke, Belgium.

This trial is about the confiscation of firearms, falsified documentsand membership to a so-called “terrorist organization”, on September 26, 1999.

Exactly seven years later, legal action against 11 people from Turkey was initiated. Among the 11 there are well known left-wing militants. They are accused of membership in a criminal association while two of them were also alleged to be members of a terrorist organization according to the new Belgian anti-terrorist law. So, what initially seems clear to everybody, soon turns out to be more complex and linked to the “US global war against terrorism”.

First of all: The trial is executed by an exceptional court. The judge, Freddy Troch, is a very controversial character; he violated the law on protection of data privacy 10 years ago by leaking data on political opponents to the Turkish government while the Federal procurator responsible for this case, Johan Delmulle, declared from the very beginning that he is going to make an example out of this trial.

Eventually the trial caught the attention of the mass media, because of Fehriye Erdal, one of the accused. She worked in Istanbul’s Sabanci Centre. The Sabancis are one of the most rich and powerful families in Turkey, ruling political an economical life in the country. In January 1996, Ozdemir Sabanci was killed in the Sabanci Centre in an attack claimed by a guerilla unit of the DHKC.

Fehriye Erdal was accused of having participated to this murder just because she was at the wrong place at the wrong time and because she had been arrested once at a student demonstration. Legally, Fehriye Erdal was accused of “an attempt to destroy the “constitutional order” according article 146/1 of the Turkish Penal Code.

Fehriye Erdal was literally hunted. Even the Turkish media reports that there are bounty hunters searching for her. That’s why she went into hiding until she was arrested in Belgium in 1999.

Turkey immediately tried to gain influence over the Belgian legal system by carrot and stick methods. Eventually legal means and economic relations opened the door for Turkey to Belgium’s courts. Turkey managed to take part in the case in a way which violates fundamental international and national laws. A state can’t be joint plaintiff in another state. This backyard door, opened to Turkey by Freddy Troch, allowed Turkey to get all files related to the trial!

In addition the defense underlined that the DHKP-C is only fighting in Turkey, where its members are tortured, hunted and murdered by the Turkish goverment. At this point we have to recall the massacres like Sivas, Gazi and Ümraniye which took place in the 1990’s, the several massacres in the prisons as the September 1999’s massacre of Ulucanlar prison in Ankara, the 19th December 2000 bloodshed in 20 prisons of the country and the ongoing oppression against the Kurdish people. Turkey’s lawer did not deny what is happening in Turkey, but he explained that the Turkish government has its reasons for behaving in this way. Admitting all these cruelties had no consequences for the Turkish state. As we know, Turkey is a EU candidate… Delmulle and Troch were very committed to Turkey. Finally the judges sentenced 7 of the accused, 5 for their membership in a criminal organisation, 1 for his membership into a terrorist organisation and one for both.

This definition of terrorism mentioned in the new Belgian anti-terror law is so large and unclear that it allows various interpretations. Its base is cadre-decision of the European Commission in 2001, after the attacks against the twin towers. In this cadre-decision, there was also a list of so-called terrorist organizations, known as the “black list”. This decision and the selection of the political and military organizations in that list were made secretly, without any debate and possibility for the concerned organizations to oppose this decision.

The DHKP-C was never considered as a terrorist organisation in Belgium until the verdict of February trial. Furthermore, in 1999 there hasn’t been a “black list” introduced yet, except of the list of the US State Department.

But now, with the new judicial weapons called anti-terror law, the Belgian authorities make all kind of abuses by turning this trial into a political process.

Indeed, this trial tried to condemn the ideology and the aims of the DHKP-C.

The simple sympathy to this revolutionary movement is considered as terrorism, and is enough to be sentenced for years of prison.

This happened to Bahar Kimyongur. Bahar Kimyongur was born in Belgium. He graduated in Archaeology and went to Turkey for excavations. There he learned about the state terror of the Turkish government… Since then, he has campaigned for democracy and human rights in Turkey. He has never used violence in his life. He organised a press conference about the NATO summit in Istanbul and also participated in the protest rally against the summit. Twice he made statements on television: Once about an incident in 1991, and once about a bomb which went off by accident in Istanbul. These were reasons enough to find him guilty of membership in a terrorist association. The anti-terror laws, based on fantasies make that possible. He had nothing to do with the events in Knokke. Just like another person convicted, who has been in prison since February 28, 2006: Sukriye Akar.

Sukriye Akar is a political activist, who actively opposes human rights violations in Turkey and seeks democratic rights there. Her particular interest is the cause of political prisoners. Her husband has been in one of the notorious F-Type isolation prisons of Turkey since 2001. She has several times met with European Parliament members and Turkey, which needs a clean bill of health to get into the EU, must see her as a thorn in its side. No problem for Belgium; she has been got out of the way.

She had nothing to do with the weapons, false documents and files found in Knokke or with any violent action. She is accused for no reprehensible act but only for her supposed presence in this house. At the moment she is held in Brugge prison in isolation conditions.

But that is not the end of it. For Delmulle’s stroke of genius is that he has brought all files from DHKP-C proceedings all over Europe into this case. The new anti-terror laws makes it possible. The close connections between Belgium and Turkey make similar strokes of genius possible and allow classical penal laws to be basically ignored. Although that can only be decided by a court, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs told his Turkish counterpart that Fehriye Erdal would be extradited to Turkey, to face certain torture and maybe death.

She was well advised to disappear underground a day before the trial ended. Now Belgium has decided that Fehriye Erdal can be be found guilty in Belgium of the 1996 Istanbul “murder of Sabanci”. The law lets itself be bent, broken – and bought.

By its political character, its exceptional measures taken during the hearings and the heaviness of the punishments, this trial is a danger for all democrats and progressive organisations and individuals.

In the end of the trial, 4 of the 11 accused have been acquitted by the court, but the Federal prosecutor went into appeal for 9 of the accused.

A confirmation of the condamnations given in February in appeal willd strengthen the pressure on all forces who fight imperialism and even social injustice on European soil.

We call for massive participation to this trial as a duty to protect everyone’s freedom of speech, association and the right to resist against oppression.

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