1st November, 2023

Joint Press release of the defense of Kenan Ayas

On November 3, 2023, the trial of the Kurdish activist Kenan Ayas will begin before the eyes of the Cypriot public at the Higher Regional Court in Hamburg, Germany.

In 1993, at the age of 18, Kenan Ayas was illegally imprisoned in Turkey for 11 years and subjected to unimaginable torture. After his release, he was again imprisoned and mistreated for six months for campaigning for a Kurdish candidate. In the end, even the Turkish judiciary did not consider this a crime, and he was acquitted. In 2010, however, he was charged in a big show trial for his educational work with Kurdish youth and is still wanted by the Turkish regime. He was able to flee to Cyprus, where he was granted refugee status.

In March 2023, Kenan Ayas was arrested in Cyprus on the basis of a European arrest warrant requested by Germany. The arrest triggered a wave of protests in Cyprus, where the Kurdish movement is seen as an ally against the aggressor Turkey and in the fight against the terror of the Islamic State. Members of almost all parties represented in the Cypriot parliament spoke out against the extradition of Kenan Ayas to Germany. Nevertheless, the extradition took place at the beginning of June 2023.

In Germany, Kenan Ayas is accused of being a member of the PKK and is therefore charged with being a member of a “foreign terrorist organization” under section 129b of the German Criminal Code. He is not accused of committing any act of violence. The charge is based solely on the alleged facts that over a period of less than two years, he communicated and met with a large number of people in Germany on behalf of the PKK, some of whom are also classified as members of the PKK by German law enforcement authorities, and that he also organized legal demonstrations and rallies and participated in collecting money.

The trial of Kenan Ayas takes place ten years after the first Kurdish person in Germany was sentenced for membership of the PKK under section 129b German Criminal Code by the Hamburg Higher Regional Court and thirty years after the PKK was banned in Germany.

The case of Kenan Ayas also shows impressively that this long-standing prosecution of Kurdish activists under section 129b German Criminal Code in Germany is in Turkey’s interest. For decades, Turkey has been vigorously pursuing the prosecution of alleged supporters of the PKK, Kurdish institutions and associations in Europe. This was especially evident recently when Erdoğan, by withholding his approval of NATO accession, effectively forced Sweden to criminalize peaceful Kurdish activities. As in Germany, such activities have been prosecuted as terrorism in Sweden since June 2023.

Therefore, the Cypriot public is closely following the German criminal case against Kenan Ayas. Giorgos Koukoumas, Member of the Cypriot Parliament and Vice-Chairman of the Human Rights Commission, will be in Hamburg to observe the beginning of the trial.

Berlin, Frankfurt, Nicosia, November 1st, 2023

Advocate Antonia von der Behrens, Berlin,
Attorney Stephan Kuhn, Frankfurt am Main
Advocate Efstathios C. Efstathiou, Nicosia, Cyprus


Information on the proceedings:
Place: Hamburg Higher Regional Court, Sievekingpl. 2, 20355 Hamburg, Room 237
Time: 9.30 a.m., admission to the courtroom will start at 9.00 a.m.
Dates of the hearing: 03.11., 07.11., 13.11., 16.11., 23.11., 24.11., 27.11., 30.11., 05.12., 07.12.,11.12., 14.12., 19.12., 20.12. and 21.12.2023.

The time and dates of the hearing can be changed at short notice.