A German court on Friday issued a suspended sentence to a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), citing in the decision to grant a mild punishment Turkey's persecution of Kurds and support for terror groups in Syria and Iraq, "Die Welt" newspaper reported.
The court ruling is likely to further strain ties between Germany and Turkey at a time when Ankara has accused Berlin of not clamping down on the PKK and of being a center of terrorism in Europe.The court's ruling also comes amid a broader crackdown in Turkey that has drawn sharp criticism in the EU.
The Hamburg court gave the 60-year-old man a one year and nine month suspended sentence for being a member of a foreign terrorist organization and heading PKK activities in the northern city of Bremen. His arrest warrant was also lifted.
The verdict led to some 70 PKK supporters in the room erupting in applause as it became clear the man would be set free.
Between August 2014 and March 2015, the man collected money for the PKK, organized propaganda and took part in membership meetings, the judge said. His name was not provided in line with German privacy laws.
Court cites Turkish support for 'Islamic State'
The PKK, a recognized EU terrorist group, carries out murder and attacks in Turkey, the judge said.
But in issuing the mild verdict, the judge took into account the man's admission to being a PKK member and his Yezidi origin, which the judge said meant that he was subject to persecution.
The judge recognized the role of the PKK in fighting against the so-called "Islamic State" in both Syria and Iraq as the Sunni extremist group tried to commit genocide against the Yezidi ethno-religious minority. In 2014, for example, PKK fighters came to the rescue of Yezidis in Sinjar in Iraq.
The PKK's Syrian affiliate, the YPG, is backed by the United States in Syria in the fight against IS.
The court assumed that Turkey supported al-Qaeda and IS between 2011 to 2014 by providing health treatment to wounded fighters in Turkey and allowing jihadist fighters to cross into Syria. Kurds in Syria and Turkey have repeatedly accused Turkey of supporting terrorist groups in Syria in order to fight against Syrian Kurds, which Ankara considers a threat.
The renewal of fighting between the PKK and the Turkish state since the breakdown of peace talks last year has led to security forces destroying Kurdish towns and a deterioration in human rights, including extra-judicial killings. All this was taken into account in the court's decision to issue the suspended sentence, the judge said.
Acquittal on other charge
The court acquitted the man on allegations of forced coercion. The charges stemmed from an argument between the accused man and the father of a 21-year-old girl who joined the PKK as a fighter against the wishes of her parents.
The father originally accused the man of threatening him with a gun if he went to the police about the matter. In court, the father denied the statement and therefore there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the charge against the PKK member.