Last week, European legislators gathered outside the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and called on Cyprus to halt its decision to extradite Kurdish political activist Kenan Ayaz at Germany’s request.
Germany wants Ayaz on charges of “membership of a foreign terrorist organisation”, linking him to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Cyprus approved the extradition order last week, but after an appeal by Ayaz’s lawyers, a higher court will make the final decision next week.
Andrej Hunko, a member of Germany’s Die Linke (Left Party) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), recalled the possibility of Germany extraditing Ayaz to Turkey in the event of his extradition from Cyprus and says that his party, which has a clear stance on this issue, opposes the German authorities’ compliance with Turkey’s requests in such cases.
Parliamentarian Hunko has consistently opposed the practice of extraditing people wanted for political crimes back to countries where their human rights are at risk.
The German legislator had previously called on Serbia to release Ecevit Piroğlu, who has been imprisoned for two years after Serbia repeatedly issued an extradition order against him despite a higher court overturning the ruling.
“We are dealing for a long time with these cases by the Turkish state for misusing Interpol for detaining people and pressing on extradition,” says Hunko, emphasising that the Turkish government uses so-called anti-terrorism laws to take up any opposition.
The member of the German parliament himself faced the consequences of Turkey’s regulations in 2018 when his entry to Turkey was blocked under allegations of being a “supporter of terrorism”.
Hunko, who has been working to prevent the extradition of Ayaz and Piroğlu, as well as all political activists who face the risk of unfair trials and ill-treatment if extradited, answered Medya News’ questions about Turkey’s misuse of the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) system, the cases of Kurdish activists and the Council of Europe’s position on the issue.
What is the Council of Europe’s position on the cases of Piroğlu and Ayaz? Has the council taken any steps to protect Piroğlu and Ayaz from extradition?
The Council of Europe as an organisation hasn’t dealt with the individual cases of Piroğlu and Ayaz. But the parliamentary assembly several times called against the political misuse of the Interpol system, last time in 2019, in resolution 2315, when “the Assembly found that Interpol’s procedures had been frequently abused for political or corrupt reasons by certain countries”.
Both Piroğlu and Ayaz were detained by a red notice from Interpol. In my view, a clear political misuse of the Interpol system.
[Despite Interpol’s policy that forbids countries from using the organisation to pursue opponents, Turkey is among the countries that were frequently accused by international organisations of abusing the system to target political opponents.
A report by Stockholm Centre For Freedom explains how the Turkish government, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has misused Interpol mechanisms in a number of ways and in various cases.]
How does the Council of Europe ensure that extradition requests made by member states are not politically motivated?
In the European Convention of Extradition of the Council of Europe, there is in article 3.1 a clear exclusion of political cases: “Extradition shall not be granted if the offence in respect of which it is requested is regarded by the requested Party as a political offence or as an offence connected with a political offence.”
In recent years, several European countries have faced criticism for extraditing political activists to countries where they may face torture or other forms of mistreatment. What measures has the Council of Europe taken to prevent such extraditions?
There were several cases, in which extradition was denied, for example, İsmet Kılıç, Dogan Akhanlı or Carles Puigdemont. The Conventions of the European Council helped in these cases.
[The Slovenian police arrested Ismet Kılıç, a German citizen with an asylum status, and imprisoned him for extradition in 2019 at a request from Turkey, which was distributed as a Red Notice via Interpol. Kılıç was released after three months due to his detention and extradition request being incompatible with the European Convention on Extradition.
Similarly, Doğan Akhanlı, a prominent writer who was arrested in 2017 in Spain on the basis of a red notice issued by Turkey through Interpol, and Carles Puigdemont, a Catalan politician arrested in 2021 in Sardinia at the request of Spain, were not extradited.]
Ayaz was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant which is valid throughout all member states of the European Union. Some have argued that the European Arrest Warrant system disproportionately affects political activists. What steps has the Council of Europe taken to address these concerns?
It is more difficult to counter the European Arrest Warrant since it is an instrument of the European Union, not of the Council of Europe and the European Union sees its member states as highly developed rule-of-law-states, where no political misuse takes place. Nevertheless, in the case of Puigdemont, the extradition was denied.
Problems concerning the European Arrest Warrant were addressed in resolution 2315 of Pace, Art 9.7:
“…by refraining from making extradition requests, including European Arrest Warrants (EAWs), when extradition would be disproportionate in relation to the gravity of the alleged crime and the penalty incurred; this would normally be the case when pre-trial detention would be considered inappropriate in similar circumstances in either one of the States involved in the extradition proceedings.”
The Turkish authorities blocked your entrance to the country in 2018. Can you explain the reason for this?
I was denied entry to Turkey as an accredited election observer for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2018. The background was my support for the decriminalisation of PKK in Germany in 2015.
However, I was in Izmir in September 2022 without any problems. This time I cannot go for observation as there is an important event in my city Aachen with German Chancellor Scholz and Ukrainian President Selensky on the same day.
Finally, we would like to hear your views and expectations about the upcoming Turkish elections and the future of Turkish politics.
First of all, I hope the elections in Turkey will be peaceful and fair. I expect that Turkey can open a new chapter in its history, less polarised without repression.