Turkey Frees 23 Suspected Militants

The NYT reports that more than 20 suspected militants, including members of an extreme Islamist organization, were released from Turkish jails on Tuesday after a Supreme Court of Appeals ruling that limits to 10 years the time detainees can be held without being sentenced. The practice of jailing detainees indefinitely without sentences has long disturbed human rights advocates, who were only slightly mollified by the court ruling. They say the 10-year limit, which was based on a recent amendment to the Turkish criminal code, does not go far enough in securing detainees’ rights.

“There are numerous verdicts by the European Human Rights Court that limit imprisonment of detainees to reasonable terms,” said Suheyl Donay, a criminal law professor at Istanbul University. “This term is often not more than two years, so this ruling is a wrong one.”

The released detainees will not be able to leave the country and must report to the local police on a regular basis. Nevertheless, the prisoner releases and the prospect of many more to come — the Turkish news media have reported that more than 50,000 have applied for review of their cases — have raised concerns.

Turkey wants to acquire own drones as soon as possible

In cable 09ANKARA1472 from October 2009, the US embassy in Ankara reports that Turkey seeks to aquire, on an urgent basis, its own UAV capability.

administration has made clear at high  levels that we support this
goal, and Turkey has pending  request to acquire armed Reaper UAVs. 
Ultimate approval for  armed Reapers is complicated due to MTCR
obligations and Hill concerns.  However, even if those could be
overcome, the  delivery pipeline for these systems is long, and
Turkey’s  leaders have sought reassurance that we will not pull our 
intelligence support until they can replace it.  We have not  made this
commitment to date.

There’s a cable from 2007 describing PM Erdogan here; a cable on the AK party can be found here, and a damning cable on the ‘truth behind the AKP’s secret islamic agenda here.’

Court of Justice Judgment in Joined Cases C-57/09 and C-101/09 Germany v B and Germany v D

In this judgment the Court ruled that a person can be excluded from refugee status if he is individually responsible for acts committed by an organisation using terrorist methods. The sole fact that a person has been a member of such an organisation cannot mean that he is automatically excluded from refugee status.

B and D are Turkish nationals of Kurdish origin. While B had supported the armed guerrilla warfare waged by the DHKP/C, D had been a guerrilla fighter and senior official in the PKK. Both the PKK and the DHKP/C are organisations on the EU list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts, drawn up in the context of the measures launched by a UN Security Council Resolution to combat terrorism. Whereas B applied for asylum and protection as a refugee, D had already been granted refugee status by the German authorities. Both stated that they had left the DHKP/C and the PKK respectively and feared persecution both from the Turkish authorities and from their respective organisations. The Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (German Federal Office for migration and refugees) rejected B’s application for asylum as unfounded and held that the conditions for recognition of refugee status were not met. It also revoked the refugee status and the right of asylum previously granted to D. The Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court, Germany) asks the Court of Justice, in each of those cases, to interpret the clauses laid down in Directive 2004/83 under which a person is excluded from refugee status.

The Court considers first whether a case where the person concerned has been a member of an organisation on the list and has actively supported the armed struggle waged by that organisation – and perhaps occupied a prominent position within that organisation – is a case of ‘serious non-political crime’ or ‘acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations’ within the meaning of Directive 2004/83. In that regard, the Court states that the exclusion from refugee status of a person who has been a member of an organisation which used terrorist methods is conditional on an individual assessment of the specific facts, making it possible for the competent authority to determine whether there are serious reasons for considering that, in the context of his activities within that organisation, that person has committed a serious non-political crime or has been guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations, or that he has instigated such a crime or such acts, or participated in them in some other way, within the meaning of the Directive.

It follows, first, that the mere fact that the person concerned has been a member of such an organisation cannot automatically mean that that person must be excluded from refugee status. The inclusion of an organisation on the list makes it possible to establish the terrorist

nature of the group to which the person concerned had belonged, but the circumstances in which that organisation was placed on the list cannot be assimilated to the individual assessment of the specific facts, which must be undertaken before any decision is taken to exclude a person from refugee status pursuant to Directive 2004/83. Secondly, according to the Court, participation in the activities of a terrorist group is not, in itself, such as to trigger the automatic application of the exclusion clauses laid down in the Directive, which presuppose a full investigation into all the circumstances of each individual case.

Before a finding can be made that the grounds for exclusion apply, the Court finds that it must be possible for the competent authority to attribute to the person concerned a share of individual responsibility for the acts committed by the organisation in question while that person was a member. To that end, one of the things that the competent authority must do is to assess the true role played by the person concerned in the perpetration of the terrorist acts; his position within the organisation; the extent of the knowledge he had, or was deemed to have, of its activities; any pressure to which he was exposed; or other factors likely to have influenced his conduct. Any authority which finds, in the course of that assessment, that the person concerned has – like D – occupied a prominent position within an organisation which uses terrorist methods is entitled to presume that that person has individual responsibility for acts committed by that organisation during the relevant period. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to examine all the relevant circumstances before a decision excluding that person from refugee status can be adopted.

The Court goes on to hold that exclusion from refugee status pursuant to one of the exclusion clauses concerned is not conditional upon the person concerned representing a present danger to the host Member State. The penalty element of the exclusion clauses is intended only for acts committed in the past. There are other provisions within the system of the Directive which enable the competent authorities to take the necessary measures where a person represents a present danger.

Lastly, the Court interprets Directive 2004/83 as meaning that Member States may grant a right of asylum under their national law to a person who is excluded from refugee status pursuant to one of the exclusion clauses laid down in that Directive, provided that that other kind of protection does not entail a risk of confusion with refugee status within the meaning of the Directive.

Turkey: Terrorism Laws Used to Jail Kurdish Protesters

Human Rights Watch unequivocally condemns the October 31, 2010 suicide bomb attack in Istanbul. It is essential that Turkey’s response targets the perpetrators, not legitimate dissenters, Human Rights Watch said. A Human Rights Watch report released today documents the use of anti-terror laws to prosecute hundreds of Kurdish demonstrators as though they were armed militants, violating free expression, association, and assembly.

The 75-page report, “Protesting as a Terrorist Offense: The Arbitrary Use of Terrorism Laws to Prosecute and Incarcerate Demonstrators in Turkey,” is based on a review of 50 cases. It describes 26 cases of individuals prosecuted for terrorism even though they had nothing to do with violence such as the October 31 attack, but simply for taking part in protests deemed by the government to be sympathetic to the outlawed armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Hundreds of Kurdish demonstrators are currently in prison pending the outcome of their trials or appeals against convictions. Others are serving long sentences that have been upheld by Turkey’s top court of appeal.

Turkey Detains 12 Suspected Of Aiding Al Qaeda: Official

(Reuters) Turkish police have detained 12 people in Istanbul suspected of providing support to al Qaeda militants fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan, a senior security official told Reuters on Tuesday.The detentions come just days after four men were arrested in west and southwest Turkey on suspicion of fundraising for militants and a fifth on suspicion of designing computer programs to jam the controls of drone aircraft.

Turkish police often arrest suspected Islamist militants and describe them as having links to al Qaeda, though details seldom emerge. Around 120 al Qaeda suspects were rounded up last January in raids mostly carried out in the southeast.

Turkish opposition leader sentenced for promoting PKK

[JURIST] The co-chairman of Turkey’s Peace and Democracy Party, Kurdish rights advocate Selahattin Demirtash was given a 10-month suspended prison sentence on Tuesday for allegedly promoting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). A Turkish court ruled that Demirtash promoted the PKK during his tenure as a branch head of the non-profit organization Human Rights Association by publishing a press release drawing attention to the case of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. The prosecution also noted that Demirtash made similar statements regarding Oclan on Roj TV, a satellite TV channel broadcasting in Kurdish. Demirtash can appeal this decision. The PKK has been labeled a terrorist organization by Turkey’s government and the US State Department.

Kurdish TV station faces terror charges

The Danish-based Kurdish TV station Roj-TV was charged with the promotion of terrorism – a charge that follows a lengthy investigation into the station and could result in its transmission license being revoked.

Top prosecutor Joergen Steen Soerensen said that Roj-TV is helping promote the PKK, or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union. Roj-TV broadcasts in Kurdish from Denmark. Earlier this year its Danish CEO stepped down and immediately told the press about the station’s links to the PKK, an organisation that is on both the EU and the US’s terror lists.

Although the authorities had been monitoring Roj-TV for five years, a thorough investigation of the accusations was launched and yesterday Lars Barfoed, the minister of justice, confirmed that he has charged the station.

According to Soerensen, Roj-TV has “persistently” aired shows with interviews of PKK members and supporters but also about skirmishes between Kurds and Turkish forces. The station’s content was “aimed at promoting and supporting the activities of the terrorist organization PKK” and its political wing, Kongra-Gel, the prosecutor said.

The programs “must be regarded as having the characteristics of propaganda in support of PKK,” Soerensen said. The charges came after “extremely comprehensive investigations” of the connections between Roj-TV and PKK, he added.