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Media Watch 2005

07 February 2005
Source: New Statesman
Author: Mark Thomas
Comment: The following article appeared in the New Statesman of London on 7 February 2005.
Arrested without reasonable cause
"In 2002 the European Court of Human Rights, ruled against Turkey ... Turkey was yet again found to be a torturing nation... It had been hoped that Turkey's proposed membership for the European Union might lead to an improvement of its disastrous track record, especially in the areas of democracy and treatment of minorities. However, only in December last year Turkey sought to confound that optimism by disbanding the ground breaking Torture Prevention Group, seizing files and computer data with many victims details on them. Remzi's arrest shows that rather than enter a meaningful dialogue to achieve a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurds problems Turkey has chosen to attack Kurdish leaders at home and in the million strong diaspora in Europe. Turkey claiming to defend democracy from terrorist attack while furthering its own draconian measures."

In December 2002 the NS held a luncheon for Professor Noam Chomsky, then visiting the UK for the Kurdish Human Rights Project. Amongst the guests was the former Kurdish MP Remzi Kartal. Over the years many diners at the NS should perhaps have been arrested (cue polite and mention Charles Clarke) and some, such as myself, indeed have. However Remzi Kartal is the last person one would expect to find imprisoned, as he now is, as a guest of the German authorities.

Like many Kurds, Kartal fled repression not from Saddam Hussein's Iraq but from Turkey. He had been elected alongside other Kurds to the Turkish Parliament. They were promptly vilified, detained and attacked, including his colleague Lalya Zana, who was awarded the Shakarov prize by the EU while in prison. In 1994, Belgium granted Kartal refugee status.

Remzi is known internationally for his campaigning for a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey. In 2002 the European Court of Human Rights, ruled against Turkey and in favour of Kartal and 12 others, under Article 3 of Protocol 1. Turkey was yet again found to be a torturing nation, and Kartal was paid 50,000 Euros compensation.

So why did the German authorities detain him? Because Turkey asked them to. Turkey has put his name on Interpol's terrorist list, becaue he has apparently been named by two of the suspects held for the al-Qaeda bomb attack in Istanbul in November 2003. I can say for certain that Kartal is no more involved with al-Qaeda than the Queen is.

He was arrested on 22 January during a visit to Nuremberg for a Kurdish cultural festival. The legal grounds to extradite him to Turkey are shaky, especially after the case of Nuriye Kesbir, a self-confessed member of the PKK guerrilla group. When Turkey sought to extradite her in January a Dutch court decreed that it would break international law because the Dutch could not rely upon Turkish guarantees that she would not be tortured (cue polite coughing and mention Charles Clarke.)

He was arrested because Turkey put his name on the terrorist list with Interpol, on the basis that he has apparently been named by two of the suspects held for the Al Qaeda bomb attack in Istanbul. I can say for certain that Remzi no more involved with Al Qaeda than the Queen is.

It had been hoped that Turkey's proposed membership for the European Union might lead to an improvement of its disastrous track record, especially in the areas of democracy and treatment of minorities. However, only in December last year Turkey sought to confound that optimism by disbanding the ground breaking Torture Prevention Group, seizing files and computer data with many victims details on them. Remzi?s arrest shows that rather than enter a meaningful dialogue to achieve a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurds problems Turkey has chosen to attack Kurdish leaders at home and in the million strong diaspora in Europe. Turkey claiming to defend democracy from terrorist attack while furthering its own draconian measures. But to be fair, Turkey can't be singled out for that. (Cue polite coughing)"