Alleged members of a Turkish assassination squad was acquitted in a Belgium court on Friday over lack of sufficient evidence. The court also ruled out allegations that Turkish state institutions like the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT) could be involved in a plot to assassinate Kurdish political figures in 2017, including Remzi Kartal and Zübeyir Aydar, both former former MPs in the Turkish parliament.
Speaking to Fırat News Agency (ANF), Jan Fermon, legal representative for Kartal and Aydar, said that the verdict was based on insufficiency of evidence although the court had initially acknowledged the significance of at least some of the evidnece in the case file.
“After reviewing all of the evidence in the file, the court concluded that something was wrong; for example, the defendants’ use of words like ‘bloodbath’ in their conversations. But then it called into question all of the evidence,” he said.
Pointing out that another noteworthy detail is about the court’s attitude concerning allegations about the involvement of MIT in the assassination plot, Fermon said:
“The judge stated that MIT is a legal state service, and that the suspects could not be members of a terrorist group if they’d been working for MIT.”
Underlining that the verdict was politically motivated, he added:
“This is a state’s frame of mind. It is not a decision based on the case file. With this evidence, a court would rule on a conviction.”
Zübeyir Aydar, one of the plaintiffs, indicated that the court’s decision was shadowed by ‘interstate relations’. He said:
“From the very beginning, the prosecutor was inclined not to file a lawsuit. A political decision has been made here with the Ukraine war and the relations between France and Turkey in the background. We can say that the decision was made to avoid an interstate crises.”
Background of the case
A lawsuit was filed on June 18, 2021, concerning alleged attempts to assassinate prominent Kurdish political figures in Europe.
Four individuals, Zekeriya Çelikbilek, Yakup Koç, Necati Demiroğulları and Hacı Akkulak, faced court in the case.
The accusations by lawyer Jan Fermon, representing plaintiffs Kartal and Aydar, included allegations about a vast network of espionage and hit operations across Europe. It also provided information on the role of this network, including Turkey’s former ambassador to Paris İsmail Hakkı Musa, in the assassination of three Kurdish women in Paris in January 2013. The accusations also suggest that the squad tasked with killing Kurdish political figures in 2017 was ‘coordinated’ by Musa.
Assassination plot in 2017
In June 2017, some suspicious individuals were spotted spying around the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) building in Brussels, Belgium. They were taken into custody by the police. A Turkish police officer identification document was discovered on Yakup Koç. It was also revealed that the other suspect, Zekeriya Çelikbilek, had a military background. In the course of the investigation it was concluded that a Necati Demiroğulları could be occupied with carrying out logistics and recruitment work for the group.
After allegedly being used as a spy by the team, Hacı Akkulak, a Kurd, contacted Belgian authorities to confess on the clandestine activities of the group after he learned that assassinations were planned.
In the course of the investigation, Yakup Koç fled to Turkey, while Zekeriya Çelikbilek remained in France.
It is asserted by lawyer Fermon and the plaintiffs that there are direct links between the suspects and the Turkish administration, and that recorded phone conversations, photos and confession statements, obtained in large part in France, demonstrate that a vast Turkish assassination network in Europe has been operating under the command of Ankara.