In February 2006 the court in Bruges declared the DHKP/C a terrorist organization and sentenced Fehriye Erdal to four years in prison, DHKP/C leader Dursun Karataş to five years, group spokesman Musa Asoğlu to six years and other members Kaya Saz, Bahar Kimyongür, Zerrin Sarı and Akar Özordulu to four years each. Three members are already fugitives. Erdal escaped a week before her conviction despite 24-hour surveillance by security staff. Karataş and Sarı are also still at large.
The case will now go to the court of appeal in Antwerp. According to Belgium’s high court, one of the judges handling their case had not appeared to be impartial. That alone was grounds to consider the convictions unsound. Belgian legal experts said it was the first such ruling quashing an earlier conviction for such a reason.
Meanwhile, four DHKP/C members were released on Thursday evening from Belgium’s prisons upon the high court’s decision. In a press conference on Friday, Asoğlu, Kimyongür and Özordulu praised the decision, describing it as “courageous.”
Raf Jespers, a lawyer for Erdal, also joined the press conference and suggested that the start of the retrial process could take six months to a year. He also asserted that Erdal, who is currently at large, has been assumed to have been “released.” Yet if Erdal is seen in Belgium, the Justice Ministry would have to implement arrest orders for Turkey, Jespers said, in apparent reference to a ruling by a Belgian court late last month. The Ghent court ruled that, if caught, Erdal could be tried in Belgium for crimes she is accused of committing in Turkey.
Ankara has long sought the extradition of Erdal to stand trial in Turkey for her alleged part in the murder of prominent businessman Özdemir Sabancı in 1996.
On Friday Turkish daily Halka ve Olaylara Tercüman published a photograph that it said showed Erdal at a café in Aachen, Germany.
Also Friday, at the press conference in Belgium, Asoğlu said he knew of Erdal’s whereabouts although he told reporters just the opposite late on Thursday upon his release from a prison in Bruges.
The DHKP/C may consider continuing its activities in Belgium, yet the final organizational decision has not yet been made, Asoğlu also said there. He added that the DHKP/C’s now shut-down communication office at the time had served as “a safe shelter” for Erdal but was not necessary now.