PRESS RELEASE – Prosecution of 4 Turkish nationals for participating in the activities of a terrorist organization that targeted an attack on Kurdish representatives and a Brussels institution

On Friday 1 October at 8.45 a.m., the 23rd Correctional Chamber of the Dutch-speaking Court of First Instance will start the trial against four Turkish citizens who prepared an attack against the Brussels premises of the Kurdish National Congress and against the two figureheads of the KNK, Remzi Kartal and Zubeyir Aydar (see picture).

In February 2017, Remzi Kartal and Zubeyir Aydar learned that plans were being made for an attack on them both by agents of the Turkish state. It was not the first time that such rumours came to the ears of the Kurdish representatives in Brussels. As they had done before, Aydar and Kartal informed the Belgian authorities. They filed a complaint with a civil action in the hands of the Brussels investigating judge De Coster.

The subsequent judicial investigation revealed that an attack was indeed being prepared on Aydar and Kartal and possibly on the building housing the Kurdish National Congress in the centre of Brussels.

Zubeyir Aydar and Rezmi Kartal are both former members of the Turkish National Assembly. They were in Europe when the Kurdish representatives in the Turkish Parliament in 1994 were first besieged and then arrested and sentenced to long prison terms. They have been living as refugees in exile ever since. Remzi Kartal is co-chairman of Kongra-gel (Kurdish People’s Congress).  Zubeyir Aydar is a member of the Bureau of the Kurdish National Congress (KNK) and the Koma Civakên Kurdistanê (KCK).

The investigation also revealed that the plan was directed from France by two suspects. At the request of the Belgian examining magistrate, an investigation was also conducted in France. It emerged that the two persons identified as the organisers and instigators of the plan to assassinate Kartal and Aydar were part of a broader group of some five to six persons who were engaged in France in spying on opponents of the Erdogan regime. Moreover, the French investigation also uncovered elements showing that this group maintained direct links with two personal advisors of President Erdogan, Adnan Tanriverdi and Seyit Sertçelik, both members of the then newly established National Security Council. Tanriverdi is a former army general who has since run Sadat, a hotly contested private military company on the model of the American Blackwater. Sertçelik is an academic specialising in the denial of the Armenian genocide but who is currently involved in the Turkish occupation of Syrian territories.

The plan to carry out an attack was eventually disrupted because the Belgian police services carried out searches, making it clear to the attack planners that their plans were no longer secret.

On 18 June 2021, the Trial Chamber referred four persons to the Correctional Court for participation or leadership in both an association of criminals and a terrorist organisation.

The two suspects are prosecuted as leaders steering the entire plan from France. One of the suspects is a former Turkish policeman and responsible for security in the Turkish Embassy in Paris.

An intermediary who put the instigators in touch with a possible “hit man” is also being prosecuted. The person who was asked to carry out the attack is also being prosecuted.

This case cannot be separated from the particularly aggressive and criminal behaviour of Turkish agents in various countries of Europe. On 9 January 2013, three female Kurdish militants were cold-bloodedly murdered in Paris. The investigation showed that the perpetrator acted under orders from the Turkish intelligence service MIT. The trial eventually did not go ahead because the suspect died a week before the opening of the trial. In Germany, a pseudo-journalist who had also attempted to contact Aydar and Kartal was convicted of spying for the Turkish authorities. And in late 2020, a plan to make an attempt on the life of Berivan Aslan, a former Green Party representative in the Austrian parliament, was also foiled in Austria.

Kartal and Aydar will take up civil action before the Brussels correctional court.  They will be represented by lawyer Jan Fermon of the Brussels Bar.

23rd Correctional Chamber of the Dutch-speaking Court of First Instance, Palace of Justice in Brussels, room 01.1, Friday, 1 October, 8.45 a.m. The October 1, 2021 hearing was adjourned to a next session on March 11, 2021. A press conference will be held on March 1, 2022.