The Court of Cassation of Belgium, the main court of last instance in the country, on Jan. 28 upheld a lower court’s decision to discontinue the prosecution of 36 individuals and two media companies allegedly affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The supreme court’s decision comes after the Turkish state and a lower court prosecutor appealed against a ruling of the Brussels Court of Appeals.
In March of last year, the Court of Appeals blocked the prosecution of 36 defendants, alleged to have links to the PKK, on the grounds that the groups’s armed struggle is “Turkey’s domestic dispute” and Belgian anti-terror laws cannot be imposed on the suspects.
Belgian federal prosecutors were seeking to try the 36 individuals on charges of recruiting young Kurds in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe, and then taking them to combat training camps.
The Court of Appeals ruled that the case is subject to the international humanitarian laws since it involves the PKK’s acts taking place on Turkish soil. It also said that “insufficient elements were provided to conclude that the PKK is guilty of terrorist offenses.”
Belgian law states that the terrorism label does not apply to forces engaged in an armed conflict, despite the European Union, the United States and Turkey all deeming the PKK a terror organization.
In the second and final hearing held on Jan. 28, the Court of Cassation ratified the Court of Appeals’ ruling.
Jan Fermon, the Belgium lawyer in the case who has led the defense of the 36 defendants, spoke to Fırat News Agency (ANF), saying the court’s ruling “has opened a new door on the side of Europe.”
According to Fermon, this ruling could also have an influence on Belgian government’s attitude towards the EU list of terrorist organizations. “This is not a political but a legal ruling. It will have not direct but indirect influence on the government of Belgium which will need to reconsider its approach towards the EU list,” he said.