Posted by: hevallo | April 15, 2010

The Political Persecution of the Kurds and Dr Remzi Kartal!


The Political Prosecution of Dr. Remzi Kartal

An example of Turkish determination to oppress Kurdish politicians throughout Europe.

Remzi Kartal was born on 5 May 1948 in a village near the town of Wan (Van). After the successful completion of a university degree in dentistry, he worked in a hospital in Istanbul for two years. Subsequently, Kartal worked as a dentist in Wan until 1991.

During his years at university, Kartal got involved in Kurdish politics and was one of the founding members of the ‘Kurdistan-Democracy-Party in Turkey’ (KDP-Turkey). After the military coup in 1980 he was arrested on three occasions. In 1990 Kartal took part in establishing the ‘Workers Party of the People’ (HEP). He was voted into the local parliament of Wan one year later. As the HEP was banned in 1993, the ‘Democracy-Party’ supporting the Kurdish cause was founded in which Kartal took on a prominent role and was part of the party’s political leadership. In March 1994 various members of the DEP were arrested in the Turkish parliament, amongst them the DEP party leader Hatip Dicle and Leyla Zana who later on won the renowned Sacharow award. The politicians arrested were sentenced to many years of imprisonment on the grounds of alleged membership of the PKK. At that time, Remzi Kartal was deputy party leader of the DEP and tried to carry on with the party’s political work – until the ban of the DEP which followed suit.

Kartal was finally forced to go into exile at the end of 1994, together with many other Kurdish politicians amongst them Zübeyir Aydar. Kartal was lucky to obtain political asylum in Belgium where he continued his political work supporting the Kurdish movement. He founded the ‘Office of Solidarity with the DEP’. In the following years he was also a founding member of the ‘Kurdish Parliament in Exile’ (PKDW, 1995) as well as the ‘Kurdish National Congress’ (KNK, 1999). In 2003, Kartal was elected deputy leader of KONGRA-GEL which replaced the PKK after its dissolution. In the same year KONGRA-GEL was put on the terrorism-list of both the UN and the European Union. And this although (or even because) KONGRA-GEL fundamentally restructured itself and decided to pursue purely peaceful and democratic politics to solve the Kurdish question. Such a re-conceptualisation of a Kurdish party did not fit into the prevailing mood and attitude after 11th September 2001, a time at which the USA was planning its war on Iraq. Turkey found itself encouraged to prosecute Kurdish politicians not only at home but also abroad oppressing Kurdish activism throughout Europe. With the tool of international arrest warrants Turkey started to hunt down Kurdish activists living in European exile.

In January 2005, Remzi Kartal was on a train journey to Nürnberg (Germany) to visit a cultural event. On the train he was arrested by a special task force of the German federal police. He was taken into an extradition prison centre in Würzburg. The Turkish judicial authorities had issued an international arrest warrant against Kartal claiming that he had taken part at a press conference at which he allegedly announced that the Kurdish military forces (HPG) were planning armed attacks in Turkey. Two people arrested in Turkey apparently confessed to planning a bomb attack in Istanbul instructed by the HPG leadership. Kartal’s defence lawyer Manfred Hörner stated: ‘This is an attempt by the Turkish government to criminalise one of the most prominent and popular Kurdish politicians. The claims by the Turkish authorities are truly bizarre and unfounded.’ He emphasised that Kartal did not even attend the press conference in question. Additionally, he pointed out that attacks on Turkey were not mentioned at that particular event. The lawyer also assumed that the ‘confessions’ of the people arrested in Turkey were obtained under torture.

Remzi Kartal was finally released in March 2005. The relevant German court in Bamberg ruled to turn down Turkey’s request for extradition and revoked the international arrest warrant. The German judges decided that the evidence and documents provided by the Turkish authorities were insufficient and contradictory to such an extent that they saw it impossible to support any arrest warrant against Kartal. Furthermore, the court pointed out that the content of the arrest warrant itself was meaningless and empty and, thus, did not comply with European judicial standards or principles of the rule of law.

But this was not enough. Ordered by Turkish authorities, Kartal was repeatedly arrested. During a stay in Spain in March 2009 he was arrested and again put into an extradition prison centre. Subsequently, the highest Spanish court ruled in July 2009 to release Kartal from prison and to refuse the extradition request by the Turkish state.

Now Turkey is hoping to be more successful in Belgium. Also the most recent attempts of prosecution will not hinder Kartal to pursue his peaceful and democratic struggle to solve the Kurdish question. The court of appeal in Brussels decided on 25 March 2010 to release all those arrested in the recent raids in Belgium – amongst them Remzi Kartal, Zübeyir Aydar, Orhan Nuri Amil, Abdulselam Mustafa, Naim Acar, Bezari Adigüzel, Sezai Ucar as well as Ali Hakim. Defence lawyer Georges- Henri Beauthier called the police operations and arrests of 4th March 2010 illegal. He emphasised that any independent judicial court would rule to release the Kurdish activists and politicians as the accusations and claims brought forward by Turkish authorities are both untenable and unfounded. The Kurds and their defence team celebrated the court’s ruling as a significant victory. The proceedings will continue.

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