The Turkish journalist Özgül Emre was arrested in Germany, where she had been residing for years. In the following two days, the German armed forces detained and brought to prison two other citizens of Turkish origin, İhsan Cibelik, one of the founders of the music band Grup Yorum, and Serkan Küpeli, a student. All three are political activists engaged in associative, musical, cultural or awareness-raising activities in opposition to measures deemed repressive and undemocratic by Turkish governments. They were arrested under a law in Germany that allows for the arrest of people suspected of belonging to terrorist associations. Even from other states. And even without the charge of having committed criminal acts. Emre, Cibelik and Küpeli are accused of belonging to the People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front, DHKP-C, a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist party considered terrorist in Turkey, the USA and the EU.
Evidence in support of Özgül Emre’s arrest included, for example, the organisation of a concert, carried out in compliance with all regulations, attended by more than 10,000 people. Or even the presence of the same journalist at the funeral, in 2022 in Stuttgart, of a Turkish political opponent: Birsen Kars died last year as a result of burns suffered in 2000, during the Turkish armed forces’ assault on prisons with the aim of breaking the hunger strike joined by hundreds of political prisoners. Another piece of evidence against Emre is her participation in the wedding of two members of the historic band Grup Yorum. This is a musical group that is extremely well known in Turkey and around the world for its political commitment. It is not considered outlawed in Germany nor in Turkey where, however, musicians have been arrested and held in prison for years: in 2020, Helin Bölek and Ibrahim Gökçek, two members of the group, died in Turkey on hunger strike.
The accusation of belonging to the DHKP-C was enough to criminalise the legal activities that the Turkish political opponents carried out in Germany: concerts, summer camps, seminars, participation in demonstrations involving hundreds of people and in private ceremonies such as weddings and funerals.
The German Association of Democratic Lawyers, VDJ, is following their trial, which started on 14 June 2023 at the Higher Regional Court in Düsseldorf. The co-chairman of the association, lawyer Joachim Kerth-Zelter, stated that the proceedings suffer from the fact that the terms ‘terrorist organisation’ or ‘liberation movement’ are not defined by law but determined politically. In Germany, the inclusion of the DHKP-C among terrorist organisations,” Kerth-Zelter stated, “is made on the basis of the assessments of the Turkish authorities, and the classification of the European Union, which is based on those same assessments. The lawyer specifies that “the defendants are not accused of terrorist acts or criminal offences of their own. Instead, they are held responsible for activities such as organising music events and information conferences, as these constitute support for the DHKP-C, which is classified as a terrorist organisation. All defendants have been in custody for almost 18 months. Defendant Küpeli was imprisoned shortly after the birth of his daughter. Defendant Cibelik suffers from prostate cancer, as was discovered by a doctor 16 months too late, which is why his detention carries special weight.
The law allowing criminal liability for acts of support for foreign (including non-European) terrorist organisations was introduced a few months after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York, with the passing of Section 129b of the German Criminal Code. ‘As in many other proceedings under Article 129b StGB,’ the VDJ explains, ‘the prosecution relies, among other things, on findings by foreign authorities, in this case Turkey, which is particularly problematic when the countries themselves are not governed by the rule of law’. Especially when “one considers the extensive dismantling of the rule of law in Turkey: particularly after the suppression of the coup attempt in July 2016, German law enforcement authorities and courts must ask themselves whether Turkey can be an appropriate object of protection under Section 129b StGB.” Many of the charges against the defendants were brought on the basis of indications brought by the Turkish authorities and the testimony of an informant already facing charges of falsifying documents. Finally, the lawyers point out that according to Article 129b, it is the Ministry of Justice that authorises the investigation and arrest of persons accused of being part of a terrorist organisation, which is an exception to the principle of the separation of powers, guaranteed by the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Eda Deniz Haydaroğlu, on hunger strike for 264 days
A young 23-year-old German woman, Eda Deniz Haydaroğlu, the daughter of Turkish parents, went on hunger strike 264 days ago (taking water, sugar, salt and vitamin B) to demand the release of political opponents and the repeal of Article 129 and paragraphs 129a and 129b of the law. Together with her, three other young people, two girls and a boy, went on strike, thus starting an international support campaign. They are Ilgin Güler, on hunger strike for 212 days, Sevil Sevimli Guler, for 207 days and Lena Açıkgöz, for 147 days. The physical condition of Eda Deniz Haydaroğlu, like that of the other three young people, is becoming more serious by the day and appeals to the German Ministry of Justice are multiplying. On 3 December, a demonstration in their support was held in Berlin.
The trial of the three arrested Turkish political opponents, which was to be held today, has been postponed until next week.
Eliana Riva, 6 December 2023