Turkish minister criticizes EU ‘double standards’ on PKK

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The decision by a Belgian court to refuse to recognize the PKK terrorist organization’s activities as terrorism was condemned by Turkey’s  EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik on Monday.

Celik said the decision — made by a lower court in Brussels on Thursday and the subject of an appeal the following day by federal prosecutors — was an attack on human rights.

“The decision by a Belgian court to not recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization is a direct attack on the European Convention on Human Rights,” he told journalists in Ankara.

Speaking after a meeting with EU member state ambassadors, Celik also denounced double standards within EU institutions over the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by the EU, Turkey and US.

According to local media, the court had ruled that PKK activities could not be defined as terrorism because an “armed campaign cannot be considered as terrorist acts”.

The judgment came in a case against 36 alleged PKK members when the court refused a prosecution request to send the suspects to be tried by a higher criminal court, the 7SUR7 news website reported.

The suspects are accused of kidnapping children from their families in Belgium and other “Western countries” and sending them for training to Greece and Iraq, the website said. They are also accused of forging documents and extortion.

Among those standing trial are Remzi Kartal and Zubeyir Aydar, said to be senior members of the PKK’s European arm. They were among PKK suspects arrested in March 2010 in raids on 18 addresses across Belgium.

Belgium has been criticized in the past for failing to act against the PKK. In August, supporters in Brussels were allowed to celebrate the anniversary of the terror group’s first attack and five months earlier followers set up tents outside EU buildings ahead of a Turkey-EU summit.

HDP arrests

Celik also addressed the issue of the arrested lawmakers of Turkey’s opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) after the meeting in Ankara, which was attended by 19 ambassadors and eight chargés d’affaires.

He said that the operation was not targeting a specific political party. Some of the lawmakers “were already released”, he pointed out.

The HDP’s co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag as well as nine other lawmakers, were remanded in custody on Friday while three other lawmakers were released.

The arrested lawmakers face prosecution under anti-terrorism laws after their parliamentary immunity was lifted earlier this year.

Celik added that the ruling Justice and Development, or AK, Party was always against the closing of a political party.

The Turkish minister criticized the EU for failing to support Turkey after the July 15 coup attempt, which martyred 246 people and wounded 2,194 others.

“Personally I would expect leaders of European institutions and European leaders to come to Turkey and give a real and strong message to the whole world — as a demonstration of solidarity similar to the one in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attack — that we are against this coup attempt in a European country, in a European democracy,” he said.

Such a stance would be a strong message especially with regards to Europe’s far-right xenophobia but “this opportunity has been missed”, he added.

Led by the US-based Fetullah Gulen, FETO is accused of orchestrating Turkey’s July 15 coup plot as well as being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the Turkish state through the infiltration of institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.