A trial in Paris on Friday concluded with severe sentences against 11 Kurdish activists accused of financing terrorism.
The prosecutor in the case demanded the conviction of the activists on charges of extortion and financing terrorism, but the defendants denied the charges and the Kurdish diaspora in France accused the court of criminalising solidarity efforts among Kurdish people.
According to the prosecution, the activists are a part of a network that levies a “revolution tax”on the Kurdish diaspora living in the country.
The sentences ranged from three years suspended sentence to five years part suspended. However, the court did not ban the defendants from French territory, as most of them have refugee status in France.
French senator Pierre Laurent, author Patrice Franceschi and academic Pascal Torre appeared in court as witnesses.
Franceschi accused France of taking a ‘schizophrenic stance’ on the Kurdish issue, pointing out that Paris provided physical and logistic support to Kurds fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria on the one hand, while targeting Kurds in France with accusations of financing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on the other.
Relating his observations from several visits to the Kurdish regions in Turkey and in other countries, Torre told the court that Kurds escaping from Turkey’s oppression to find refuge pose no security threat to France.
Laurent, who had recently travelled to northeast Syria and met with Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), argued that keeping the PKK in the list of terrorist organisations is a political decision with no justification. The senator had met Abdi the day before an explosion at Sulaymaniyah airport in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which Kurdish groups say was caused by a Turkish drone attack targeting the commander, who was visiting Sulaymaniyah at the time.
“This trial was the first of its kind in a decade,” wrote French daily Le Monde on Saturday, adding that the prosecutors had eased off on court cases related to the financing of the PKK following the assassination of three Kurdish activists in Paris by a Turkish gunman in 2013.
Defence attorney Marie Malterre called the court’s decision a scandal. “We have never had such a harsh and severe verdict,” Malterre said.