On Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has condemned a ruling by a Belgian appeals court, which has blocked the prosecution of 36 suspects linked to the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).
Ankara considers the PKK to be a terrorist organization that has waged an armed insurgency in the country since the early 1980s.
“This ruling, which exonerates a terrorist organization with ideological motives, is exemplary as it comes from a country that presumes to lecture Turkey on the rule of law,” read the statement by the ministry.
Describing the decision as an ” an example of hypocrisy,” the ministry called on the Belgian government to “take all necessary steps to correct the desperate and contradictory ruling and to continue countering the PKK terrorist organization in an increasing manner.”
For Ankara, the ruling handed down by the Belgian court on Monday was built on political criteria rather than legal rules.
However, Belgium’s Ambassador to Ankara, Michel Malherbe, said on his Twitter account that the legal ruling was separate from the Belgian government’s position.
“The PKK is and will continue to be a terrorist organization [in the eyes of the Belgian government]. The decision is the expression of the judicial power, rigorously independent of the executive, and must be understood as such by all,” said the ambassador.
The Turkish ministry added in its statement that the ruling was disregarding the fact that terrorism posed a threat to all nations and was encouraging other terrorist organizations.
But Belgium’s Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin said in a statement that the court’s judgment did not affect the Belgian state’s ability to comply with its international obligations in the fight against terrorism.
Goffin vowed that Belgium would continue to defend the inclusion of the PKK, as well as other Turkish terrorist groups such as the DHKP/C and the TAK, in the terror list of the European Union (EU).
The EU and the United States (US) list the group as a terror organization.
According to Belgian law, groups that engage in an armed struggle cannot be counted as a terrorist organization.
Thus the Belgian courts rule that there is insufficient evidence to show the group had launched attacks outside the area it defines as a conflict zone, determining that the PKK and its non-state actors were involved in an intense non-international conflict with the Turkish state.
In an earlier decision in March, a lower court had found that insufficient elements were provided to conclude that the PKK was guilty of terrorist offenses.
At the time, Turkey took the case against the 36 suspects to the higher court and summoned the Belgian Ambassador to Ankara in protest.
The investigation, in which the suspects were of taking young European Kurds to combat training camps, was launched in 2008 by Belgium’s federal prosecutors.