Greek court acquits 9 DHKP-C members who plotted against Erdoğan of terrorism charges

Published 15.05.2019 18:18

A three-member Assize Court in Greece ruled that nine suspects affiliated with the far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) are to be acquitted; they were apprehended in November 2017.

All of the suspects were cleared of the charges of "being a member of a terrorist organization" and "possessing arms and explosives." Six suspects were sentenced to two years seven months in prison on the charges of "possessing small arms and firecrackers," while the punishment of five suspects was suspended.

On the other hand, the imprisonment of Hasan Biber, who was suspected of masterminding the twin bomb attacks in 2013 that targeted the Justice Ministry and the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) headquarters in the Turkish capital Ankara, was changed to a pecuniary penalty.

In November 2017, nine DHKP-C members were arrested on charges of setting up and being members of a criminal organization, terrorist-related acts of supply and possession of explosive materials and illegal possession of firearms smoke bombs and firecrackers. Since the arrests, the Greek courts rejected the extradition of suspects.

Greek media outlets reported that the suspects, including one who was granted political asylum in France, were planning to launch an attack on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's motorcade during his visit to Athens.

The DHKP-C, although less influential in Turkey than other terrorist organizations such as the PKK, still represents a considerable threat to the country's security. The group is an offshoot of a Marxist-Leninist movement - Dev Sol (Revolutionary Left) - that was established in the 1970s and claimed responsibility for a series of high-profile murders, including the assassination of nationalist politician Gün Sazak and former Prime Minister Nihat Erim in 1980. The DHKP-C was founded in 1994 and was involved in assassinations of several intelligence officials and Özdemir Sabancı, a member of the Sabancı family, one of the richest families in Turkey that owns a large conglomerate of companies.

The DHKP-C attempted to stage a bloody comeback in recent years by carrying out attacks against the police. In 2012, about 10 years after its last known lethal attack in Turkey, the DHKP-C conducted a suicide bombing at a police station in Istanbul, killing a policeman. It claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, which killed a Turkish security guard and injured a journalist in February 2013. This was followed a month later by rocket attacks against the Ministry of Justice in Ankara and the headquarters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). In September 2013, the DHKP-C claimed responsibility for a rocket attack against the headquarters of Turkish police in the capital. No casualties were reported in the three attacks.

The DHKP-C was also responsible for the killing of Mehmet Selim Kiraz, a prosecutor who was investigating the possible negligence of police in the death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan during Gezi Park riots. Kiraz was killed in his room at an Istanbul courthouse on March 31, 2015, after two militants took him hostage for several hours.

For decades, Greece has served as a safe haven for DHKP-C and other terrorist groups active in Turkey, whose members were granted political asylum.

Greece has long been one of the countries in which the DHKP-C is very active, and the terror group currently operates a camp disguised as a refugee camp, located in the town of Lavrion, 60 kilometers (37 miles) southeast of Athens. However, in recent years, cooperation between the two countries has increased. In 2014, four Turkish men were arrested in Athens on terrorism-related offenses in connection with the DHKP-C, after a raid on an Athens apartment uncovered weapons, explosives and detonators. The operation followed the arrests of five Turks and three Greeks over a speedboat carrying arms that was intercepted in the Aegean Sea.

The move was seen as an improvement to the counter-terrorism cooperation between Turkey and Greece, although the refusal of Greek courts to extradite several suspects has overshadowed the efforts.

However, Greece's rejection of extradition of eight soldiers involved in 2016's coup bid engineered by Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) further strained the ties between Ankara and Athens, which are at odds over their Aegean claims, Cyprus issue and hydrocarbon activities in eastern Mediterranean.

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