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Turkey calls in Belgian ambassador over PKK ruling

March 11, 2019

Turkey says a Belgian court decision blocks the prosecution of people with links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The European Union, the United States and Turkey consider the PKK to be a terror organization.

A Kurdistan Workers' Party flag
Image: AFP

Turkey's Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned Belgium's ambassador in Ankara over a Belgian judicial decision it said prevented the prosecution of people with alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), according to a foreign ministry official.

The summoning of Belgian Ambassador Michel Malherbe comes after a case in which Belgian federal prosecutors were seeking to try around 30 suspected members of the PKK who allegedly recruited young Kurds in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe, and then took them to combat training camps.

But a Brussels appeal court on Friday ruled that "insufficient elements were provided to conclude that the PKK is guilty of terrorist offenses."

Read more: The Middle East's complex Kurdish landscape

"The Belgian ambassador was summoned to the ministry today to share our disapproval of the decision by the Belgian chamber of accusations on March 8," a Turkish foreign ministry source told French news agency AFP.

"Despite the evidence submitted by the federal prosecutor of Belgium on the PKK's terrorist nature, this decision, as it stands, provides terrorist organizations with a very dangerous area of exploitation," they added.

Reporter - Growing up Behind Bars

Belgium judiciary separate to government

Belgian law states that the terrorism label does not apply to forces engaged in an armed conflict, despite the European Union, the United States and Turkey all deeming the PKK a terror organization.

Malherbe on Friday said that despite the Belgian judiciary's decision, Belgium's view that the PKK is a terrorist organization had not changed.

Read more: Kirkuk: What you need to know about the Kurdish-Iraqi dispute

"The position of the state which I represent should be well noted: the PKK is a terrorist organization," he said in a statement.

But Malherbe said it was necessary to accept that the Belgian judiciary and the Belgian government were independent of each other.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry source told AFP it would appeal the decision and that Turkey would continue its legal fight with determination.

Earlier appeals rejected

A Belgian appeals court in September 2017 rejected an objection to an earlier ruling by a lower court which said PKK activities in Europe could not be classified as terrorism.

Read more: Kurdish families caught between Iran and the US

In 2016, the court had already refused the prosecutor's request to send the 36 to a higher criminal court, saying that "an armed campaign cannot be considered as an act of terror."

The PKK has been fighting an insurgency in Turkey since the 1980s and some 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

law/ (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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