Pkk flag posted: left-wing parliamentary group leader warned

A member of Hamburg’s parliament must donate 1,000 euros for tweeting the flag of the banned Kurdish organization PKK.

May not be shown publicly: Flag of the PKK Photo: dpa

An understanding judge has found the co-chair of the left-wing parliamentary group in the Burgerschaft, Cansu ozdemir, with her commitment to the Kurdish cause. "I can understand a lot of what you said politically," said Judge Katharina Leroye. But she said she had to apply the applicable law. Leroye warned ozdemir for posting on Twitter the flag of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is banned in Germany.

The warning, however, comes with a monetary donation to "Help for the Disabled Child" and a caveat: Should ozdemir display the flag with the red star on a yellow background again within the next two years, he would be fined 30 daily rates, totaling 4,500 euros. "I think you are intelligent enough to look for other ways to your goal," the judge said.

ozdemir had been charged in 2017 for posting a tweet saying, "Away with the ban on the #PKK! #ForbiddenInGermany." This message alone, the judge made clear, would not have been punishable. But ozdemir had not left it at that and had also shown the flag. Since the PKK is banned, the law on associations also prohibits the dissemination of its symbols.

At the beginning of the hearing, which was attended by many supporters, ozdemir read out a statement in which she called the PKK ban "hypocritical and an instrument of repression against the politically active Kurds and their comrades in Germany". The German government had relied on Kurdish units in the fight against the "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq. At the same time, it supplied Turkey with armaments.

Office for the Protection of the Constitution sees danger

Since the founding of the Turkish Republic, the Kurds have been "systematically persecuted – always with the goal of assimilation and destruction". The Kurds have only been left with the path of resistance in order to be able to continue to exist.

This struggle was led militarily by the PKK. "The PKK’s central demands include the recognition of Kurdish identity and the political and cultural autonomy of the Kurds while maintaining national borders," the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution concedes on its website.

However, the office sees a danger in the PKK: As the most powerful foreign extremist organization, it is able to mobilize people far beyond the circle of supporters, the constitutional protectors judge, "also towards a possible revival of militant forms of action." It has not been allowed to operate in Germany since 1993.

In the trial before the Altona District Court, the main issue was whether ozdemir could invoke an exceptional paragraph in the law on associations that allows the display of banned symbols "in the context of civic education." As a parliamentarian, it was her task to influence public opinion, ozdemir said. For this purpose, she had visualized the repeated demand to lift the PKK ban with the flag.

Prosecutor Michael Elsner weighed it differently: "In order to attract attention, you merely put a flag in the foreground – and that is punishable." He said that a parliamentarian could be expected to abide by the law and take appropriate action.

ozdemir’s lawyer, Alexander Kienzle, argued that the prosecution was ignoring the fact that the photo had been published in order to make it the subject of a public discussion. That should be possible, he said.

"We don’t follow that," Judge Leroye said. She said the tweet lacked deliberative, enlightening content; in its exaggeration, it hardly conveyed any content. "It’s about political day-fighting," Leroye found. Nevertheless, it did not follow the prosecutor’s demand for a conviction: in view of the crime and personality, this was dispensable and also not necessary for the defense of the rule of law. A repetition was not to be expected.

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