Today, on the ninth anniversary of the brutal killings in Paris, 9 January 2013, Monsieur Antoine Comte, the French lawyer leading the fight for justice for the victims of the Paris killings, speaks to Medya News.
Nine years ago, on 9 January 2013, three Kurdish women were executed with deadly shots fired from a single gun into the head of each woman in a cold-blooded and seemingly professional and planned assassination. The final bullet of 10 bullets fired from the low-calibre gun was fired directly into the mouth of Fidan Doğan, after she was already dead, carrying a clear political message.
One of those women killed that night was the legendary Kurdish female freedom fighter and co-founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Sakine Cansız or Heval Sara as she is fondly known in the Kurdish movement.
The second woman was Fidan Doğan who was at the time a very successful diplomatic representative of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) who had attended many diplomatic meetings with top French politicians, including multiple meetings with the former French President, François Hollande and NGOs in Paris prior to the assassination. She was such a well-respected political actor representing the Kurds in Europe, that the European Parliament observed a minute’s silence after her killing.
The third woman was Leyla Söylemez, a young Kurdish political activist, politically active within the Kurdish Community in France at the time.
All were killed at the office of the Kurdistan Information Centre located near one of Paris’s main train stations, the Gare du Nord, on 147 Rue La Fayette in Paris.
Attention soon turned to a Turkish man called Ömer Güney who had ingratiated himself into the Kurdish community in Paris seemingly as a self-declared ‘born again’ supporter of the Kurdish cause, even managing to successfully volunteer as a driver for Sakine Cansız. However, soon after the killings, it was found out that he was in actual fact an extreme ultranationalist Turk, with links to the ultra-right wing Turkish nationalist group known as the Grey Wolves in Turkey, and had direct links with the Turkish intelligence community.
He was arrested not long after the killings and was found to be in possession of hundreds of images of memberships cards he secretly took at a Kurdish association that he’d earlier become a member of. It was also found that he had travelled to Turkey on numerous occasions in the time prior to the assassinations.
He was the main suspect, who had been filmed on CCTV cameras entering the building at 147 Rue La Fayette at the time of the killings, and DNA was reportedly found on him from one or more of the victims.
However, the case was closed in 2017, after Ömer Güney died in hospital in December 2016, after suffering from a brain tumour.
Then in May 2019, after pressure from the families of those killed in Paris, and new evidence taken from confessions of Turkish intelligence agents captured by the PKK in Northern Iraq, the case was reopened.
In time though, it was the Turkish media who actually provided the legal team in Paris with enough evidence to launch the case, including a photograph of the passport of Ömer Güney given to him by Turkish intelligence, a leaked sound recording of Ömer Güney discussing the assassination operational details with 4 other members of Turkish intelligence and a signed Turkish intelligence document regarding Ömer Güney’s orders for the assassination plans including down the last details of how Güney was going to escape the scene on a motor cycle.
At that time, one of the lawyers for the victims’ families spoke to the French News Agency AFP about the decision to open the case. He said, “It is historic. This marks the end of impunity for political assassinations in France ordered from abroad,” That lawyer was Antoine Comte, a lawyer for one of the families who has led the legal fight for justice and who joined me to discuss the case on the 8th anniversary of the notorious Paris killings.
Antoine Comte began our Podcast by saying:
“This case is a very important case for me. First because I knew Fidan Doğan.
And one has to remember, when she was murdered in Paris in the circumstances you recalled, the President of the European Parliament asked for a minute of silence. In other words, she was very well known. Not only as a militant or an activist, but she was known because she was a very important go-between the Kurds and the French politicians, the European politicians, she was often in the European Parliament.
And so, when the President of the European Parliament asked for a minute of silence, I honestly felt very bad, because no authority in France had the guts to do the same thing.
Now, one has to recall that for historical reasons, usually linked with the post-second world war, end of the colonial era, a lot of people were assassinated in France because they considered France to be a ‘safe country’ which was not true. And the number of people was so important. We tried to work on this issue a number of years ago with some friends, and every day we discovered more and more victims of murderous states.
Now this is a concept I have to explain. Political crimes can be committed by countries of course, but in our history, in the history of France, no-one has ever pointed out the country responsible for these political crimes. Now I personally have been in charge of legal cases, such as Algerians who have been killed, a lawyer, in 1987, because he was a go-between the opposition to the Algerian government. I was also the lawyer for Palestinians killed in France. And everyone knew, everyone knew, who was responsible for these crimes. I mean, generally, of course in the case of the Algerian it was the Algerian state, in the case of the Palestinian it was the Israeli intelligence and in other cases as well, we have had this going on for years.
Since you have to remember that in 1964, Ben Barka who was an opponent to the monarchy in Morocco was murdered in Paris with the head of the French police and hoodlums, thugs. Now the case is ongoing, can you imagine, from 1964! We have this case going on and finally nobody has been sentenced for the assassination of Ben Barka. So, what is very different in this case aside from the fact that for me personally, I was very moved by the assassination of a woman I’d known and worked with in many cases we had together. Just to give you an idea, it so happens that I usually cut off my mobile phone when I sleep and this precise day for some odd reason my mobile phone was not cut off and there I got a phone call at 6am in the morning, say that Doğan had been killed.
But the problem was that the person who called me did not know that, did not know the name, the ‘little’ name [nickname] because you know, the Kurds always have ‘little’ names, so her name was something like… [Mark:”Rojbin I think”.] Right, that’s it, so I knew nothing about this name and knew her as Fidan Doğan. I worked with her on many cases, worked on cases in the court etc… and then I said, and it was such a shock I must admit, I said, ‘Well, they haven’t killed Fidan.’ And the man said, ‘They have.’.
So this is a very moving case for me, a very emotional case because of that.
But it so happens that if the French authorities have shown no courage, and usually they show no courage in any of these cases, either in your country or in my country, it so happens that the judges were very determined.”
After giving many more details of the journey of the case in the Podcast, the French lawyer who has led this case for nearly 10 years now summarised by giving a message to the families of Sakine, Fidan and Leyla and all those attending demonstrations in Europe on the 9th anniversary of the horrific killings.
“My message is that we will never stop the case. Till we have people, answering for the responsibility within the assassinations. Whatever their level of responsibility, we will never stop the case. People will never stop that case. And we have no reason to stop that case because today in our different systems, impunity cannot be accepted in criminal crimes. In most crimes they are not accepted but in criminal crimes they sometimes get away with murder, if I may say. But this is not acceptable. And if we have to show something to the different governments of our different countries, it’s that we do not accept, what we say in French, ‘le raison de état’ the fact that you accept for political reasons, diplomatic reasons, economic reasons, to shut up! The people who have ordered the crimes have to be indicted, even if they never come to France, and they will never come to France, if we find them of course. They have to be sentenced in absentia eventually. This is not the problem, they have to be sentenced. And we have to stop this horrible way of accepting criminal cases, by and for political motives in our country, on our soil.
All these three women, were legally in Europe, some of them were born here. All of them had documents to stay here, in Europe and they were murdered! And not protected. And that is a bloody shame!”