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Trial of Kurdish PKK operative starts in Hamburg

Chase Winter
February 17, 2017

A German court has opened the trial of a top PKK operative on terrorism-related charges. The man is alleged to have been responsible for PKK activities in multiple cities in Germany.

Alewiten und Kurden demonstrieren in Köln gegen Erdogan
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Meissner

A Hamburg court on Friday began the trial against a suspected top operative of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Germany.

Turkish national Zeki E. stands accused of being a member of a foreign terrorist organization. Code-named "Siyar," the accused is alleged to have been a leading cadre of the PKK between March 2013 and August 2014. 

During this time he served as the main figure of the organization in Darmstadt, before taking over operations in Berlin.

"In addition to typical administrative duties, as a regional leader of a region he handled the organizational, finances, personnel as well as propaganda activities in his area of responsibility and oversaw collection of donations to the PKK," the Hamburg court said in a statement.

Within the PKK's organizational structure, the 36-year-old was under former "North" sector leader Mehmet D., who was convicted by a German court in August last year.

As the PKK's representative responsible for Berlin, he also had regular meetings with other sector leaders in Hamburg and Bremen, according to the court. He also attended the June 2014 PKK European Congress.

A month after the congress the accused was assigned to the "South 2" sector, an area that includes Stuttgart, Ulm, Freiburg and Munich.

"As a sector leader he had been in direct contact with the Belgian-based PKK leadership and implemented their orders," the Hamburg court said.

Zeki E. was arrested in Sweden in April last year on a European arrest warrant and in July was transferred to Germany.

'Germany is encouraging terrorism'

The PKK is the largest Kurdish nationalist movement, with millions of supporters in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and the diaspora in Europe. In addition to carrying out an armed struggle for greater Kurdish rights in Turkey, its fighters are also on the front lines against the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria and Iraq.

In November last year, a German court issued a suspended sentence to a Yezidi member of the PKK in Bremen, citing in the decision to grant a mild punishment Turkey's persecution of Kurds and PKK fighters saving the ethno-religious group in Iraq from IS genocide.

Turkey has long accused Germany of allowing the PKK to use liberal laws to freely operate, charges Germany denies.

With three million people of Turkish origin, many of whom are ethnic Kurds, Germany has long had a difficult balancing act between supporting a NATO ally and raising concerns over human rights and democracy.