German police face criticism over pro-PKK rally in Cologne

Published 20.09.2017 00:00

Police in western Germany's Cologne faced criticism Monday after it allowed pro-PKK demonstrators to carry posters of its terrorist leader at a cultural festival last week. Unopposed by law enforcers, demonstrators on Saturday carried posters of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed PKK terrorist group. Germany's Interior Ministry, however, distanced itself from the controversial decision as it reaffirmed the federal government's stance against the terrorist organization. "What has happened does not correspond to what we understand from the imposed ban and the subsequent prohibition on symbols used by the group," Interior Ministry spokesman Johannes Dimroth told the press in Berlin.

"We would like to re-examine whether there is a need to further specify the prohibition on symbols, to make it possible for the federal states to take effective actions," he said.

The PKK was banned in Germany in 1993, following violent protests carried out by its members in the country. Earlier this March, the German interior ministry updated its list of prohibited symbols used by the PKK and informed federal states, amid calls by Turkey to take stricter measures against terrorist propaganda.

The updated list included posters of Öcalan with a yellow background, widely used by the PKK supporters over the years.

Police in Cologne argued that these posters, printed on a white background, were not included in the federal ministry's list of prohibited symbols.

Turkey on Saturday disapproved the pro-PKK rally as the Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador to Ankara. The Foreign Ministry's office urged Germany to adopt a "principled stance against all kinds of terrorism."

Several articles published across German media have also criticized the German authorities for not taking effective measures while acknowledging Turkey's concerns over the PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the group which carried out last year's July 15 coup attempt.

Criticizing the German intelligence agency BND Chief Bruno Kahl for his doubts over FETÖ's involvement in the failed coup, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung journalist Michael Martens wrote that the BND "cannot deny the fact a bloody coup attempt took place."

"Some of them fled abroad. Some of them to Germany. How should we act if it is proved that some of these enemies of the constitution are in Germany?" the article read.

It added that there was a contradiction between the fact that they may have been involved in a crime in Turkey and their belief that they will not pay a price for their crime in Germany. Martens also underlined that if Germany did not have a way of holding the suspects legally accountable, then it should not claim their innocence as well.

Another German daily Reutlinger General-Anzeiger criticized the lack of measures against the PKK and its rally in Cologne.

"Ankara is right to be angered. Ankara's claims that German authorities turn a blind eye to PKK activities cannot be completely rejected," said Reutlinger General-Anzeiger report as quoted by Deutsche Welle Turkish.

The PKK's continuous propaganda, recruitment, and fundraising activities remain the main source of tensions between Turkey and its NATO ally Germany.The terrorist group has nearly 14,000 followers among Germany's Kurdish immigrant population, according to the German domestic intelligence agency BfV.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S., European Union and Turkey, resumed its armed campaign against the Turkish state in July 2015.

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