Turkey summons Belgian ambassador in Ankara over PKK ruling

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Turkey summoned Belgium’s ambassador to Ankara on Monday to condemn a Belgian court’s decision which Ankara said prevented the prosecution of Kurdish militants for terrorist activities, a Turkish foreign ministry source said.

The Turkish ministry last week criticized as “unacceptable” the ruling on the 36 individuals and legal entities allegedly tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which Ankara and the EU deem a terrorist group.

The appeals court ruled PKK activities in Europe could not be classified as terrorism.

Pro-PKK activists often conduct fund-raising and propaganda operations among Europe’s Turkish and Kurdish diaspora.

“The Belgian ambassador was summoned to the ministry today to share our disapproval of the decision by the Belgian chamber of accusations on March 8,” the Turkish foreign ministry source said.

The source added: “Despite the evidence submitted by the federal prosecutor of Belgium on the PKK’s terrorist nature, this decision, as it stands, provides terrorist organizations with a very dangerous area of exploitation.”

Belgian embassy officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The ministry said it would appeal the decision and that Turkey would continue “its legal fight with determination”.

A Belgian appeals court in September 2017 rejected an objection to an earlier ruling by a lower court which said PKK activities in Europe could not be classified as terrorism.

The court had already refused in 2016 the prosecutor’s request to send the 36 to a higher criminal court, saying that “an armed campaign cannot be considered as an act of terror”.

The Belgian ambassador, Michel Malherbe, on Friday said the state’s position had not changed.

“The position of the state which I represent should be well noted: the PKK is a terrorist organization,” he said in a statement.

But Malherbe said it was “necessary to accept that” the Belgian judiciary and the Belgian government were independent of each other.

The PKK has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984 which has left tens of thousands of people dead.

Turkey has often accused European countries of not taking the PKK threat seriously and ignoring Ankara’s calls to stop the group’s activities there.