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Germany accused of doing Erdogan's bidding after Kurdish activist jailed on terrorism charges

GERMANY was accused of doing authoritarian Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s bidding on Friday after the jailing of a Kurdish activist for three years and five months on terror charges.

Gokmen Cakli was found guilty of membership of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a proscribed organisation in Germany, with his sentence being handed down by a Koblenz court after a four-month trial.

He was arrested at the railway station close to Frankfurt airport in January 2020 with prosecutors accusing him of taking part in “propaganda events” and organising fundraising for the PKK in central Germany between April 2018 and June 2019.

The events Mr Cakli was accused of encouraging people to attend included celebrations for Newroz — the Kurdish new year — and a Kurdish Cultural Festival. 

His defence lawyer Baris Yesil said the charges showed political and cultural activities were being criminalised by the German state.

It was argued that the PKK was not a terrorist organisation, with Mr Yesil reminding the court of a historic Belgian ruling, made the same month that Mr Cakli was detained. 

Belgium’s Supreme Court found that EU anti-terrorism legislation cannot be applied on PKK, since it is party in a non-international armed conflict or civil war where the use of legitimate military force is allowed.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel rushed to Turkey on the day of Mr Cakli’s arrest and, in a joint press conference with Mr Erdogan, reiterated Germany’s position that it considers the PKK a terrorist organisation.

The Azadi Legal Aid Fund insisted the trial was not about justice, “but about foreign and economic policy interests” with Germany investing heavily in trade and arms sale to Turkey.

Protests took place after the verdict with supporters angrily declaring that Mr Cakli, who was born in Germany, had been jailed “in the name of Erdogan.”

Germany has a long history of political persecution targeting Kurdish movement activists along with communists and revolutionaries. 

Last year 10 people were handed jailed sentences from between six years six months and two years nine months for “membership of a foreign terrorist organisation.”

They were found guilty of financing and recruiting members for the Communist Party of Turkey Marxist-Leninist (TKP-ML), an organisation that is monitored but not banned by the German state.

Muslum Elma, who was deemed the ringleader of the group, told the Morning Star that “political thought” has been put on trial in Germany, dismissing European notions of democracy as “a fairytale.”

“It is our right to resist imperialist occupations and slavery. As we stated in court, it is a right to resist. Using rights is not a crime either. 

“For example, the Turkish state has declared the Kurdish geography as a whole today as a war zone. How can the Kurdish people, who heroically defend themselves against these occupying forces, be declared guilty?” he said.

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