French fight against PKK just beginning

Contrary to what is widely assumed to be the case in Turkey, a French investigation into the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has not come to a close and is in fact deepening.

French fight against PKK just beginning

Contrary to what is widely assumed to be the case in Turkey, aFrench investigation into the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has notcome to a close and is in fact deepening.

"The real operation has just now started. If it finishes well, it willbe the first decisive move made in Europeagainst the PKK," French sources close to the investigation said.

The French investigation, dubbed "Ýmralý" -- a reference to theisland off Ýstanbul where PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is serving a life sentence-- began last July when two members of the terrorist group were captured tryingto change 200,000 euros into dollars at an exchange bureau in France. It laterculminated into a crackdown on the group in February when the French policedetained 16 people, including some suspected to be the senior leaders of thegroup in Europe. But initial contentment in Turkey latersubsided, to be slowly replaced by disappointment when each and every one ofthe suspects detained as part of the crackdown, including a few sought onInterpol "red bulletins," were eventually released.

French sources indicate it could be too early to lose hope. "Thoughcircles watching this terror group in Turkey think the operation here hasfinished already, it has not. It is continuing and deepening," said onesource. The same sources noted if the PKK members were brought to trial andconvicted, it would also be the first time in Europethat the PKK had been punished, something that would set a precedent for thecontinent.

According to the French sources, the questioning of the PKK members,including senior figures Rýza Altun, Nedim Seven and Canan Kurtyýlmaz, hasstarted anew in recent days. The PKK members remain free pending trial for themoment, though they are forbidden from traveling outside of Paris. They have also been officiallyforbidden from meeting with one another and from going to Kurdish groupmeetings.

As part of the deepening investigation, a French delegation will also betraveling to Turkey.The delegation will have meetings in Ýstanbul, Ankaraand Diyarbakýr.Sources report the investigation also has active contacts in Germany andother EU countries.

Ankara had already requested the Frenchgovernment extradite to Turkeysome of the PKK members caught in Paris.There have been no developments, however, on this front, which sources note isultimately connected to "political will" in France and the interior ministermay be moved to make a decision on this matter. Investigators and judges canonly make suggestions on the matter of extradition.

Decision to let them go free was surprising

The unexpected freeing of the 16 suspected PKK members in France led to questions on whether thiscontroversial decision was tied to political pressure in connection with theupcoming elections in France.

The decision by the Paris Appeals Court to free the PKK members caught atthe end of an eight-month-long special operation by anti-terror units was ofthe greatest surprise to the anti-terror commissioners directing theinvestigation. The three commissioners and one prosecutor who appeared in courtall requested that the PKK members remain imprisoned. At this point,anti-terror unit members in Francehad characterized the court's decision as "inexplicable" and as a "baselessdecision."

In the case presented before the court, it was pointed out that not only isthe PKK on the list of terror groups kept by EU countries, but some of thesuspects arrested in the operation were at that time being sought by Interpol"red bulletins."

A top level authority from the French Ministry of Justice, who did not wanthis name to be revealed, said the freeing of these suspects centered around twoseparate reasons. The most important reason for the freeing of the 16 was thedisclosure, following the arrests, that the PKK had relations with the Frenchdomestic intelligence agency, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire(DST). It was similarly revealed that during the investigation PKK members hadmet at least once a month with the DST and offered information about theiractivities. Authorities note that PKK lawyers "played" this secret cooperationbetween the DST and the PKK "very well" while in court. Interestingly, thisconnection, a topic in the French press, was never officially denied by theDST.

Another important aspect to this operation underscored by French officialsis the statement made by US Ambassador to Ankara Ross Wilson, following theraids in Paris, when Wilsonasserted that the UStoo had played an effective role in the operation. This, according to Frenchofficials, "had a negative effect" on the operation. Authorities involved inthe investigation note that there was an attempt by PKK lawyers, following the US ambassador's comments, to assert that theoperations had occurred because of pressure from the US. This, they say, was an attemptto "politicize" the matter. They note that at the time the US knew nothingtime about the operation, which had begun in July of 2006, saying, "Thesestatements left us in a difficult position in front of the court."

Meanwhile, Ministry of Justice sources say that PKK lawyers "tried to pullthe case out of the arena of terror and into the political arena by assertingthat the questioned PKK members were working for the Kurdish cause in Turkey and that all Kurds in Turkeysupported the PKK."

Sources also indicate that in the coming days, certain political names andstate authorities who had been quoted in this case may be called to "givetestimony." After the PKK arrests, it was noted in the press that presidentialcandidate Nicolas Sarkozy's right-hand man, ethnic Armenian politician PatrikDevejian, had had long standing contacts with certain Kurdish groups in France.

'Schizophrenic' view

French authorities assert that the entire problem at this point stems fromcontradictions in the stance shown by EU countries toward the PKK as a whole.The PKK is in fact on the official EU list of terror groups. Despite this, mostEU countries continue to ignore PKK activities within their own borders. Whatthe EU has made clear is while this terror list is important for political andsymbolic reasons, it holds no legal value. France, which has signed this list,has already given Rýza Altun, a leading member of the France-based PKK group,the legal right to residency. It was only with Altun's capture that it wasdiscovered that he had an legal status. Perhaps it is due to all this that onetop level French official referred to the current situation involving the PKKas "schizophrenic."

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16