Lawyers Dr Peer Stolle and Dr Lukas Theune made an official application to Germany’s Federal Interior Ministry on 10 May to lift the ban on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Germany.
The federal German government should open the door to a new process in its policy toward Kurds, they said at a press conference.
The PKK have cultural autonomy rights in the countries where Kurds live, and fight for these rights, Theune said.
PKK has not committed crimes in Europe, Stolle added.
“In Europol reports, there was no evidence that the PKK was prone to violence. And the PKK administration has made a new statement that it will respect German laws, and this statement has significantly strengthened our application,” Stolle said.
If the Interior Ministry rejects the application, the lawyers will file a lawsuit in the Federal Administrative Court to kickstart a domestic legal process, said Mahmut Şakar, former lawyer to jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, in a tweet on Wednesday.
Germany issued a ban on the PKK on 26 November 1993. The major Kurdish trial in Düsseldorf that led to the ban, known as the PKK trial, was heard between 1989 and 1994.
Since then, the ministry has expanded the ban to include the use of symbols related to Kurdish groups and exhibiting posters of Öcalan.
Kurds in Germany and their supporters have been protesting the ban ever since the ruling, holding a mass demonstration on 26 November 2021, coinciding with the anniversary of the PKK’s founding.
The 28 year long PKK ban in Germany gave the Turkish government leverage to put pressure on Kurds, Theune said.
Kurds have also been engaged in legal battles in Belgium, appealing against the inclusion of the PKK in the EU list of terrorist organisations. After 10 years, the Belgian Court of Cassation in January 2020 confirmed a ruling by the Brussels Court of Appeals that said the PKK in Turkey should not be classified as a terrorist organisation, Belgian lawyer Jan Fermon told MedyaNews in an interview last year.
“The ‘victorious’ outcome of the case has given some new space and new arguments for lawyers everywhere to argue against the criminalisation of the PKK,” Fermon said.
A legal case continues at the European Union level over the PKK’s proscription in the bloc’s terror organisation listings.
The last hearing on the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) was on 31 March.
“We felt that the court was very interested in the case and asked some very useful questions, also to clarify the statements made by us. It has been a very long case, and a lot has happened in the jurisprudence of the court since the beginning of this case, so it was very important to discuss where we stand today,” Tamara Buruma, member of the PKK’s legal team, said at a press conference after the hearing.
The lawsuit was won in the first instance, Theune told MedyaNews in another interview, but the European Commission later appealed the verdict.
“All these cases are very useful for us in Germany to argue that the PKK should not be legally defined as a ‘terrorist’ organisation,” the lawyer said. The legal team would be able to point to legal procedures in various countries going forward, he added.