Day 32 – “Collateral damage to German-Turkish relations”

In the PKK trial in Hamburg, the defence of Kenan Ayaz pointed out the political dimension of the proceedings and pleaded for acquittal. Intelligence service statements are naturally the exact opposite of evidence due to a lack of verifiability.

The main trial against the Kurdish politician Kenan Ayaz before the Hamburg Higher Regional Court is drawing to a close. While the federal prosecution is demanding a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence, the three defence lawyers pleaded for acquittal on Tuesday. A detailed statement by the defendant is expected to follow on 9 July. The #FreeKenan committee is calling on people to attend the trial.

Kuhn: Germany is protecting a dictatorial regime
In his plea, lawyer Stephan Kuhn first attacked Section 129b of the German Criminal Code. It was obvious that the wrong person was being protected, namely a dictatorial regime. The punishment is intended to deter other Kurds from becoming active in certain ways, so that certain structures are weakened or destroyed. “None of this is in Germany’s own interests, but above all because the German government has adopted the interests of the Turkish state for reasons of alliance, migration and foreign policy,” says the lawyer.

Combatant status for PKK members
The defence lawyer branded the Federal Ministry of Justice’s authorisation to prosecute the PKK as “objectively arbitrary”, as it was not the PKK but the Turkish state’s policies that were directed against the basic values of a state order that respects human dignity and the peaceful coexistence of peoples. Turkey is “an autocratic, unjust state that systematically tortured its own civilian population, cooperated with Islamist terror militias and undertook several wars of aggression in violation of international law, systematically destroying constitutional institutions and democratic participation in general, but especially at the expense of the Kurds”. It was a state that “was not afraid to let the country sink into civil war in order to hold on to power”. Kuhn called for PKK fighters to be granted combatant privileges and for the PKK to be removed from the scope of criminal terrorism law in line with European law.

Intelligence service information is not proof
Kuhn also denounced the fact that Kenan Ayaz’s alleged “acts of membership” had been raised as evidence solely on the basis of findings by the domestic intelligence service. However, intelligence service information is naturally the exact opposite of evidence due to its lack of verifiability. “However, I have no hope that you, who feign no understanding for Mr Ayaz, will do the only right thing in the face of this, namely to acquit him, or alternatively to discontinue the proceedings by trial judgement in accordance with Section 260 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and to revoke the arrest warrant, which I hereby request,” Kuhn concluded.

Behrens: If Russia had not attacked Ukraine
Lawyer Antonia von der Behrens explained that the criminal proceedings against Kenan Ayas were largely based on political and not legal logic. As in the main trial, she referred to the demand made by Turkey in the course of the NATO accession negotiations to prosecute PKK members in Sweden, Finland, Germany and the other NATO states even more severely. The German security authorities are being pressurised by the Erdogan regime publicly and in diplomatic dealings as well as in security cooperation to arrest more and more alleged supporters of the PKK. This pressure is particularly effective because the PKK is an organisation that Turkey and Germany can agree to prosecute. The arrest warrant is based on a thin investigation file with alleged findings from telecommunications surveillance, a passport check, three intelligence service enquiries and two observations. None of these measures had yielded any concrete information. The proceedings would have been discontinued at some point if Russia had not attacked Ukraine. This was the only reason why Kenan Ayaz had become “collateral damage to Turkish-German relations”, said von der Behrens.

European arrest warrants in the interests of German foreign policy
The export of the German structure for prosecuting members of the PKK is leading to a consolidation of anti-PKK jurisprudence in Europe. The Germany-France axis is driving this criminal prosecution. Antonia von der Behrens went on to say that there was no discernible domestic political interest in “why Germany should set out to gather Kurdish people from all over Europe – recognised refugees, journalists, people who, like Mr Ayaz, have suffered the most massive persecution by Turkey – in order to put them on trial in Germany and use state security resources for these proceedings”. It could therefore only be in the interest of foreign policy to apply for more European arrest warrants.

Never before experienced in a PKK trial”
In the second part of her plea, the defence lawyer criticised the nature of the main hearing. The senate had shown no recognisable interest in an in-depth clarification of the allegations made against Kenan Ayaz. From the outset, the main hearing was aimed at confirming the charges and not at clarifying the obvious contradictions.
Antonia von der Behrens also stated that she had never experienced a PKK trial in which the presiding judge had so openly attacked the public attending the trial and the defence had been made so difficult. For example, the appointment of a second public defender had been refused, although the Federal Public Prosecutor General was present with two people and this was otherwise customary in these proceedings. Communication between the defence and Kenan Ayaz was also made more difficult by a partition screen and a so-called reader’s order.

No right to speak for Kurds
Kenan Ayaz himself had not been able to explain himself, although this was his right. The accused had been deprived of the right to speak when he wanted to make a statement on the expert opinion of Dr Günter Seufert: “For Mr Ayaz, the deprivation of the right to speak means that a Kurd is forbidden to speak when he speaks about Kurdish history and non-Kurds, such as the expert Seufert, are left with the sole right to interpret Kurdish history,” the defence lawyer explained.

Nothing against Kenan Ayaz in hand
In a further step, Antonia von der Behrens explained in detail that, from the defence’s point of view, the charges had not been confirmed and that there were hardly any sufficient facts. The official testimonies of the Federal Office and the Hamburg State Office for the Protection of the Constitution alone, whose sources could not be questioned, were not sufficient. In addition, the telecommunications surveillance had not revealed any activities that were “typical of PKK cadres, such as collecting donations or monitoring collections, looking at websites to exchange messages, writing reports or receiving instructions from Dutch numbers”.

Incomprehensible and disproportionate sentence demanded
At the end of her plea, the defence lawyer put the sentence demanded by the Attorney General in political terms. The demanded sentence of four years and six months was completely incomprehensible for a person like Kenan Ayaz, who had been subjected to massive persecution, who had been imprisoned in Turkey for many years and on several occasions without being guilty, who had not been accused of a single violent offence and who had no criminal record, and was completely disproportionate even if the accusation were to be accepted. Such a high sentence, which is much higher than the sentences handed down in comparable proceedings, can only be explained politically. This high criminal complaint by the Federal Public Prosecutor General was apparently also intended to prove to Turkey that the persecution of Kurds in Germany was unrelenting.

What Europe has to thank the Kurds for
Antonia von der Behrens concluded her plea with the words of Kenan Ayaz, which he had said on the first day of the main trial: “The fact that people in Greater Europe can go for a comfortable walk and live their everyday lives is thanks in particular to the Kurds, whom they label as terrorists. If the Kurds had not opposed IS fascism and liquidated the Islamic State, IS would be conquering the Middle East today under the leadership of Erdoğan, making the world uninhabitable and turning it into a bloodbath. However, the danger has not yet been averted.”

Efstathiou: Doing justice to the life of Kenan Ayaz
Cypriot lawyer Efstathios C. Efstathiou addressed the shared experience of Kurds and Cypriots with violence and occupation by Turkey and explained the persecution history of Kenan Ayaz:
“We could see that Kenan Ayaz had to learn far too early that pro-Kurdish sentiments are mercilessly persecuted in Turkey and that all those who engage in political activism, which is even legal by Turkish standards, face the very real risk of torture, ill-treatment and imprisonment. At an age when life begins for other young adults, he witnessed the torture of his 13-year-old brother and experienced torture himself. He was imprisoned at a time when others were building their lives, studying, learning a trade and starting a family. In prison, he repeatedly saw and heard about the cruel methods used by the Turkish state to persecute ordinary Kurds and the Kurdish movement. He witnessed how the Turkish state tried to destroy the hopes of the Kurdish people for a dignified and self-determined life with equal rights. He also witnessed that even in the darkest times there is hope and solidarity and that the Kurdish movement could not be silenced by someone like Esat Okay Yildiran, the director of the notorious Diyarbakir military prison, who had learnt his atrocities during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Although these words do not do justice to the life of Kenan Ayaz, I hope they have reminded you of his biography, in which he wrote about so much more than persecution. He wrote about the learning, awareness and hopes of the Kurdish people in the time of the peace talks.”

Why people in Cyprus do not see the Kurdish struggle as terrorism
Efstathiou accused the court and the public prosecutor’s office of “declaring the exercise of basic human rights such as freedom of assembly, freedom of opinion and freedom of speech as terrorist acts”. The German way, however, could not convince the Cypriots:
“If you label every act of an alleged PKK member as terrorism, what do you do with real terrorism, whose aim is to spread fear and terror, and why don’t you label the cruel and illegal acts of the Turkish military as terror? Moreover, this German view does not convince the people of Cyprus, because they see the Kurdish struggle as an armed conflict, as a struggle of the oppressed against the oppressive Turkish regime.”
Nelson Mandela and Che Guevara were also once considered terrorists. “All these attempts to silence free people have collapsed in the face of the truth. I am sure that this will also be the case in this trial. The arbitrary conclusion that Kenan Ayaz is a terrorist will not stand up to history,” said Efstathiou.

Further trial dates
Further scheduled dates are 9 July, 11 July, 17 July, 22 July, 29 July and 19 August. The trial will take place on the first floor of the Hamburg Higher Regional Court at Sievekingplatz 3, either in room 237 or 288. The hearings usually start at 9.30 a.m.

Postal address and donation account
The website provides information in Greek, English and German about the trial and the protests in Cyprus and Germany. Kenan Ayaz is happy to receive mail. Letters can also be written in languages other than Kurdish or Turkish, as translation is guaranteed. Please note the spelling of the authority’s name “Ayas” so that the letters can be delivered.
Kenan Ayas
Hamburg remand centre
Holstenglacis 3
20355 Hamburg
Donation account:
Rote Hilfe e.V. OG Hamburg
Keyword: Free Kenan
IBAN: DE06200100200084610203