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Turkey slams Belgium court ruling that PKK is not a 'terrorist' organisation

Pro-Kurdish people wave flags with the face of jailed PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, during a protest demanding his freedom in Brussels in February 2019.
Pro-Kurdish people wave flags with the face of jailed PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, during a protest demanding his freedom in Brussels in February 2019. Copyright AP Photo/Francisco Seco
Copyright AP Photo/Francisco Seco
By Matthew Holroyd
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Belgium's Foreign Ministry maintains that they are committed to their relations with Turkey, and will continue to work with international partners to fight terrorism.


Turkey has heavily criticised a court decision in Belgium, which has blocked the prosecution of 36 suspects linked to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).

The decision by the Court of Cassation confirms an earlier ruling that the PKK was not a terrorist organisation.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has described the decision has an "explicit attempt to undermine the law".

Belgium's Ambassador to Ankara, Michel Malherbe, says the legal ruling is separate from the position of the government, and that "the PKK is and will continue to be a terrorist organisation".

The court's decision relates to a case of 36 individuals and entities linked to the PKK, who allegedly recruited young Kurds in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe.

Belgian federal prosecutors began the case in 2008, accusing the suspects of taking young European Kurds to combat training camps.

But Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin said the latest judgment "does not affect the ability of the Belgian State to comply with its international obligations in the fight against terrorism".

'Belgium is and remains committed to its relations with Turkey'

In an earlier decision in March, the Brussels appeals court found “insufficient elements were provided to conclude that the PKK is guilty of terrorist offences.”

Turkey responded by summoning the Belgian Ambassador to Ankara in protest after a foreign ministry official "conveyed their unease" over the decision.

The European Union, the United States, and Turkey all list the PKK a terror organisation.

But Belgian law states that the terrorism label does not apply to forces engaged in an armed conflict.

Malherbe said it was necessary to accept that the Belgian judiciary and the Belgian government were independent of each other.

"The decision of the Court of Cassation is the expression of the judicial power, rigorously independent of the executive, and must be understood as such by all".

In a statement, Philippe Goffin added that Belgium will "continue to defend the inclusion of the PKK and other Turkish terrorist groups such as the DHKP/C and the TAK" in the European Union's list of terrorist groups.

"Judicial authorities will continue to cooperate with their European and other partners engaged in the prosecution of PKK individuals, as it has done for years."

Goffin also reiterated that the decision "no way implies that PKK members can no longer be prosecuted in Belgium".

'This decision is ideological and political'

Turkey’s foreign minister, Melvut Cavusoglu, condemned the Belgian ruling on Twitter, saying the decision was "hypocritical" and "political".

"These ideological decisions will never prevent us from fighting against treacherous terrorist organisations".


In a press release, the Turkish Foreign Ministry added that "this ruling of the Belgian judiciary means clear support to the PKK".

"We urge [the] Belgian government to take all necessary steps to correct this desperate and contradictory ruling and to continue countering the PKK terrorist organisation in an increasing manner."

The ministry went on to accuse Belgium of "hypocrisy" and claimed that they were ignoring the threat of terrorism.

"The ruling that has been built on political criteria rather than legal ones".

"It has also revealed that Belgian legislation poses an obstacle for Belgium to fulfill its international obligations in relation to counterterrorism", referring to resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.


Turkey also argued that the decision had given encouragement, such as DAESH/ISIS, who could "exploit the irresponsible ruling".

"Turkey will continue its fight against all forms of terrorism ... both legally and through effective measures on the ground until the eradication of terrorist organisations."

The PKK has been fighting the Turkish state since the 1980s and around 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Click on the video above to watch Seana Davis' report in #TheCube.

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