A Kurdish organisation in Europe has launched a petition to stop the extradition of a Kurdish political activist from Cyprus to Germany.
A Cypriot court ordered the extradition of Kenan Ayaz, who was detained on 15 March at the request of Germany, on Wednesday.
Germany has been seeking the extradition of Ayaz, who has long been active in the Kurdish movement, on charges of “membership in a foreign terrorist organisation”. Ayaz has denied the charges brought against him by German authorities, arguing that his activities in defence of the rights of the Kurdish people had nothing to do with terrorism.
“Playing the terror card is part of a strategy to discredit resistance to Kurdish oppression and discrimination,” Ayaz said.
Ayaz’s lawyers have appealed the extradition order and a higher court will make a final decision in ten days.
Ayaz, 49, was granted political asylum in Cyprus, where he has been living for more than a decade, after serving 12 years in prison in Turkey because of his political identity.
The Swiss Kurdish Women’s Union (YJK-S), the organisation that has launched the petition to stop the decision against Ayaz, stated that it is “absurd” that Ayaz is in detention in Cyprus for something for which he received political asylum there and called on Cyprus to stop the extradition decision.
Parliamentarians of the Council of Europe issued a press release on Thursday, calling for the “urgent release of Ayaz who fought for human rights and freedoms”.
The European parliamentarians said that such arrests carried out by some European states against Kurds were actually serving the policy of the Turkish government.
Similar to the Cypriot court order for the extradition of Ayaz, Serbia has recently issued an extradition order against Kurdish political activist Ecevit Piroğlu, who was detained and arrested in Serbia on 25 June 2021 after Turkey demanded his extradition.
Piroğlu’s legal status has been a hot-button issue for both Turkey and Serbia recently.
Piroğlu, a long-time leftist activist, was chairman of the İzmir branch of the prominent Human Rights Association (İHD). He was arrested several times over his activism, and in 2018, ultimately left Turkey for Serbia, following charges of terrorism due to his participation in the massive nationwide anti-government protests of 2013, dubbed the Gezi Park protests.
The extradition decision, which had been overturned twice before by the Serbian appeals court, was decided for the third time by the local court on 7 April without a hearing. While the local court insisted on its decision and ruled for Piroğlu’s extradition, Piroğlu’s lawyers appealed the case again.
Andrej Hunko, a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, who has always been a vocal opponent of European countries extraditing Kurdish activists, visited Piroğlu two days before the latest court ruling.
Hunko, calling Piroğlu’s two-year detention on an extradition request by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “political harassment”, is also one of the European parliamentarians calling for Ayaz’s release.
The Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL), one of the two major parties in Cyprus, and the Movement for Social Democracy (EDEK) also protested the court’s decision, claiming that Turkey was behind the extradition request of Ayaz, a member of the Theofilos Kurdistan Cultural Centre.