France's constant failure to arrest and extradite to Turkey leaders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is intentional, based on a decision issued in 1998 not to hand over the group's members, Today's Zaman has learnt.
Paris has disappointed Ankara several times when it refused to extradite senior leaders of the terrorist group detained in a February crackdown on the PKK. In a scandalous incident, one of them, Rıza Altun, took a flight to northern Iraq from Vienna after leaving France despite a pending trial against him and an Interpol warrant for his arrest. A second man, Nedim Seven, is also at large now although he was under police surveillance.
A 1998 decision, which appears to have been released under political considerations, bans extradition of PKK members to Turkey. Diplomatic notes and requests issued by Turkey to France about the PKK since 1998 were reportedly ignored by the French Justice Ministry.
The most recent diplomatic note crisis with France was seen in October. The Turkish government informed the French government that Ahmet Gülabi Dere, a senior PKK leader who is wanted by Interpol on charges of terrorism, would visit the European Council in Strasbourg and requested that necessary actions to be taken. But, like the previous requests, the French Foreign Ministry did not pay heed to this demand despite the insistence of Turkish authorities. Finally, French officials from the Turkey desk sent an e-mail to Turkish authorities, in which it is stated that France "interpreted differently" Interpol's red notice about Dere.
In the end, France did not take any steps regarding Dere, and Turkey's initiatives before the European Council proved futile. Despite the international arrest warrant for him, Dere had talks at the European Council. Dere had previously engaged in talks with European authorities at the European Council and European Parliament. France had decided to deport Dere in 1993.
French and Turkish experts on the PKK file attribute the French government’s attitude toward the PKK to a “political decision” made during the socialist government of Lionel Jospin in 1998. The socialist government had decided not to extradite the PKK militants, even if there were international arrest warrants for them, on grounds of “capital punishment, human rights violations and torture” in Turkey.
Turkish requests for extradition and diplomatic notes issued since 1998 are still waiting to be taken into consideration by the French Justice Ministry. Although Turkey has abolished the death penalty and implemented reforms in human rights, the French attitude has not changed. In other words, while it recognizes the PKK as a terrorist organization and condemns its terrorist attacks, France still condones the presence of the terrorist organization in its territories.
However, recently, France seems to be changing its attitude. French authorities told Today’s Zaman that a new era has begun between Turkey and France with respect to cooperation against the PKK, adding that counterterrorism units have exerted great efforts toward this change. Recently, a group of Turkish judicial authorities went to Paris to interrogate several PKK militants and to have talks with the French Justice Ministry.
In February of this year French counterterrorism teams arrested 16 PKK members including senior leaders Altun, Seven and Canan Kurtyılmaz. However, an appeals court overturned the prosecutor’s demand for arrest of the suspects and released them pending trial. Despite being under police surveillance and having to sign in at a station close to his home every day, Seven still managed to evade the authorities.
ALİ İHSAN AYDIN ANKARA