Swiss court approves extradition of PKK recruiter to Germany

A PKK militant stands at a barricade in Diyarbakir, southeast Turkey (2016). Keystone

Switzerland’s highest court says it has approved the extradition to Germany of a Kurdish militant allegedly recruiting insurgents to attack Turkey.

This content was published on June 24, 2020 - 14:26

The Supreme Court approved the extradition of a leader of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which Switzerland considers a criminal organisation.

According to German authorities, the man recruited people for the People's Defence Forces (known by its Kurdish acronym HPG), the military wing of the PKK.

The court points out that the crime allegedly committed by the accused is punishable both in Switzerland and Germany, which is a necessary condition for extradition.

The judgment was published on Wednesday. In it, the court found it relevant to the case that the HPG had committed several terrorist attacks in Turkey between 2014 and 2016.

The military support that the HPG gave United States-backed Kurdish combatants in the fight against the Islamic State group had no bearing on the decision.

The legal distinction between legitimate resistance and terrorist crime is one of the most sensitive tasks in the field of international judicial assistance, the Lausanne-based court noted.

The Turkish man of Kurdish descent was arrested at Zurich airport last November in response to a request from German law enforcement authorities which had listed him as wanted months earlier.

The PKK, which has bases in northern Iraq and offshoots in Syria, has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey. It calls for greater cultural and political rights for Kurds. Ankara sees the PKK and its associates as a terrorist group.

The Kurds are considered the largest ethnic group without a nation state. Most of them live in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia.

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