6th November, 2023

Joint press release on the case of Kenan Ayas – Opening of the trial on November 3, 2023

The trial of the Kurdish activist Kenan Ayas started on Friday morning, November 3, 2023, at the Higher Regional Court in Hamburg.


There was a strong Cypriot presence inside and outside the court with amongst others the Cypriot Member of Parliament G. Koukouma and Kenan Ayas’ defense lawyer Efstathios C. Efstathiou. There was also a rally in front of the court with many supporters of Kenan Ayas and the Kurdish struggle who criticized the persecution of the Kurdish movement in Germany and Kenan Ayas in particular.


At the beginning of the trial, Kenan Ayas introduced himself with a victory sign and greeted the supporters who came to watch the trial. Following this, the prosecutor read out the short indictment accusing Kenan Ayas of being a member of the PKK, which is treated as a foreign terrorist organization according to German anti-terror law (§ 129b German Criminal Code). In an opening statement, Kenan Ayas’ defense attorneys rejected the prosecutor’s claims and argued that this is a political trial. They said that there are many indications that Kenan Ayas is being charged because the Turkish regime asked for it. They could show that the prosecution waited for two years to ask for a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) against Kenan Ayas and that they only made their request for an EAW just before the NATO summit that took place in Madrid at the end of June, 2022. During this summit, the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO was discussed and Erdogan publicly pressured the NATO states to criminalize the Kurdish movement and to extradite politically active Kurds and alleged members of the PKK to Turkey.


After the opening statement, the defense filed a motion to stop the trial and close the case against Kenan Ayas. They argued that the administrative authorization of the Federal Ministry of Justice to conduct trials against alleged members of the PKK, which is a prerequisite for this kind of anti-terrorism charges, should be annulled by the court. They showed that this administrative authorization is not meant to protect countries like Turkey that don’t respect international law and, on the contrary, commit acts of aggression against other states and violate the human rights of its citizens, especially the Kurds.


Kenan Ayas also made a statement to justify this particular request by his lawyers. In his statement, he referred to the violations of international law by Turkey under Erdogan, the military actions against the Kurdish movement in Rojava and Northern Iraq and against the Kurds in Turkey. He argued that the Kurdish people’s struggle is a struggle for existence in the face of this type of violence and persecution from Turkey. He also denounced the continuing Turkish occupation of Cyprus and said that it is the same Turkish-nationalist ideology that led to the occupation that fuels the fight against the Kurds.


After the first day of the trial, it became also apparent that it will be very difficult for Kenan Ayas to defend himself in open court and in a fair trial. The chief judge has bluntly rejected the claim of Kenan Ayas and his defense lawyers that he could not understand what was happening during the trial because of the very poor Turkish interpretation. It was clear that the Chief Judge was not interested in guaranteeing Kenan Ayas his basic right to have qualified interpretation because she flatly rejected his claim without looking into the matter.


Furthermore, the Chief Judge announced that the court will keep most of the alleged evidence against Kenan Ayas out of the public trial. She gave the lawyers an 18-page order listing the evidence that she wants to use against Kenan Ayas, but which will not be read out in the hearing. All the listed documents are instead to be read by the court and the parties outside the hearing, which means that the public will not be able to know their contents.


In addition, the Chief judge did not allow Kenan Ayas’ Cypriot defense attorney, Efstathios C. Efstathiou, to make a statement in regard to her proposed order to keep evidence out of the public hearing. The judged claimed that Efstathios C. Efstathiou would need to speak German and that he could not speak English although he brought an interpreter to translate his speech into German. In the end she postponed her decision on whether to allow him to speak in English or Greek until the next day of trial. This was very unfortunate because Estathios C. Efstathiou could have pointed to the great interest of the Cypriot public in the trial of Kenan Ayas, who is considered a freedom fighter in Cyprus because the acts of which Kenan Ayas is accused are not punishable in Cyprus. Therefor the Cypriot public has an particular high interest in knowing what evidence is used against Kenan Ayas and it should not be kept outside the hearing.


The trial will continue on Tuesday, 7.11.2023 at 9.30 a.m.


Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, November 6th, 2023


Defense attorneys for Kenan Ayas:

Rechtsanwältin (lawyer) Antonia von der Behrens, Berlin/Germany

Rechtsanwalt (lawyer) Stephan Kuhn, Frankfurt am Main/Germany, and

Advocate Efstathios C. Efstathiou, Nicosia, Cyprus.