Afrin aftermath: German court convicts 4 PKK-linked arsonists | News | DW | 17.04.2019
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Afrin aftermath: German court convicts 4 PKK-linked arsonists

A German court has jailed four young men for attacks on Turkish properties near Hanover in support of the outlawed Kurdish PKK. The arson bids last year coincided with Turkey's seizure of Afrin in northern Syria.

The three Syrians and an Iraqi of Kurdish and Yazidi origins and aged between 21 and 24 were each jailed for terms of more than two years by a special state security court in Germany's northern Lower Saxony state on Wednesday.

The verdicts stem from bids last year to set ablaze a car that bore a sticker "Ataturk" — a reference to Turkey's 1923 founder — and a building used by Turkish shop proprietors in Garbsen, a city of 63,000 on Hanover's northwestern outskirts.

The blazes, promptly extinguished, preceded a peaceful rally attended by thousands of Kurds in Hanover on March 17, 2018, in protest at Turkey's offensive to capture Afrin as well as Germany's arms dealings with NATO-partner Turkey.

Read more: Turkish-backed forces seize Afrin, March 2018

On Wednesday, Lower Saxony's Higher Regional Court jailed two accused, aged 23, for two-and-half years, also finding them guilty of playing a role in the attempted vehicle arson of March 11. 

The two others, aged 21 and 24, were jailed for two years and three months, solely on the main charges of attempted arson and supporting a foreign terrorist organization — like many Western countries, Germany considers the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to be a terrorist group.

Stilll subject to appeal

The verdicts are still subject to potential appeals. The accused have been in custody since the first half of 2018.

As the trial opened in December, the court in a press statement said the accused targeted the building in Garbsen, believing its occupants included a Turkish cafe operator.

The accused were not members of the PKK, but said they wanted to express their rejection of the Turkish military incursion into northern Syria and to demonstrate their backing for PKK.

Read more: Germany bans PKK publishing houses

All four were refugees from Syria and Iraq, according to court records. Three of them originated directly from the region around Afrin, south of Turkey's border.

Germany is home to 3 million people with family origins in Turkey. Of these about a quarter are Kurdish.

In both incidents, the spread of flames was stopped, and property damage was confined to €5,000 ($5,650). 

ipj/msh (AFP, dpa)

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