Ozdemir Sabanci, a member of one of Turkey’s top industrial dynasties, his aide Haluk Gorgun and his secretary were killed in 1996. The murder sent shockwaves throughout Turkey, the hunt for their murderers was launched by police. The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), a spin-off of Turkey’s most dreaded urban leftist guerrilla group Dev-Sol (Revolutionary Left), took responsibility in a phone call to the Marxist weekly Kurtulus. They claimed it was to avenge the deaths of three comrades in a prison riot. The DHKP-C is considered one of the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world. It is illegal and on the terrorist lists in the United Kingdom, United States and many other countries. Ozdemir Sabanci was head of the Toyota-Sabanci factories at that time and had no relations with terrorism or even with politics. He was purely businessman. However Sabanci was an easy victim. His assassination was a shocking event for Turkey, and the DHKP-C saw it as a chance to ‘prove’ itself. One of the murders was Fehriye Erdal. Erdal worked in Sabanci Towers as a tea-lady. It was a role-job, and she was DHKP-C’s spy-murderer in the offices. When the order came from the organization Erdal and the other terrorists killed the victims and then escaped from Istanbul to Brussels with the terrorist organization’s assistance. Erdal, like the other DHKP-C and PKK terrorists hoped to apply refugee status in Belgium or in another Western European state. Hundreds of PKK and Marxist terrorists-militants had applied and most of them were granted the refugee status. They accused Turkish Governments of being brutal and they claimed that they had been tortured in Turkey. Belgium, France, UK, Germany and many other governmental offices and courts did not make serious investigations and they easily opened their countries to hundreds of terrorists during the 1980s and 1990s. When the figures climbed to thousands of applies, the measures were taken, and the investigations vividly showed that most of the applicants were simply lying.
Murderer Erdal was detained in 1999 in Belgium while holding a false passport. Turkey declared that Belgium had to try the ‘terrorist’ or Brussels should handle her to Turkish justice. Ankara has long pressed Brussels to extradite Fehriye Erdal, and the Brussels has rejected the demand. Belgium turned down Turkey’s request for her extradition because of the death penalty in force in Turkey at the time. However, the laws were changed in Turkey and eventthe head of the PKK terrorist organization escaped from the death penalty. Yet the Belgium authorities continued their resistance. Brussels’ attitude shocked the Turkish people. A terrorist and a murderer was being protected in the capital of the European Union. Fehriye Erdal Case has undermined Turkish people’s trust towards Belgium and the EU for the years.
Erdal has been under house arrest after serving a one-year prison term for other crimes in Belgium. She was convicted of being a member of a ‘terrorist organization’, carrying an unregistered weapon and using false identification.
The Gent Court of Belgium ruled last week that Sabanci assassination suspect Fehriye Erdal cannot be tried in Belgium for crimes she committed in Turkey. The court ruled that Erdal cannot be sentenced in Belgium for an assassination that occurred in Turkey as she used a “semi-automatic weapon” in the attack and the use of such weapons is not covered by the Belgian counter-terror act. It means that if Usame Bin-Ladin uses a semi-automatic weapon, he would not be sentenced in Belgium and he would not be considered terrorist in Belgium. You are ‘innocent’ in Belgium if you kill anyone in Turkey by using semi-automatic weapon.
In their 25-page reasoned decision the court also ruled that Belgian justice had no authority to make a ruling on crimes committed in Turkey. Accordingly Erdal, who has been under house arrest at a secret location since she was detained in 1999 for carrying false identification, will be tried for ‘minor crimes’a and legal experts say that Erdal could be released for a time served in Belgium.
Sabanci family’s attorney, Fernand Schmitz, who appealed to the Gent Court against Bruges Court’s previous non-competence decision, described the verdict as ‘extreme none-sense’. Noting that there was no difference between a semi-automatic and full automatic weapon, Schmitz accused the Belgium court of embracing terrorists at a time when internationally there is ongoing joint fight against terror. “Belgium has been creating trouble for itself by taking terrorists into its bosom and protecting and supporting them,” Schmitz was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency. “It is wrong to receive terrorists with open arms at a time when a joint struggle against terrorism is being spoken about,” he said.
Now Turkish Government, media and people perceive that Belgium acting as an umbrella for the terrorists. And they are not wrong. Combating terrorism needs international co-operation. And if two NATO members and two partners in the EU cannot co-operate in Fehriye Erdal case, they can make no co-operation in any area of fighting terrorism, because the proofs in the Erdal Case left no place to doubt about terrorism. DHKP-C is a terrorist organization according to the EU, US and many other countries’ laws. Erdal is a terrorist and the Belgium security forces clearly declared the fact. She killed innocent businessmen. And she cannot be tried in a Belgium Court because she used a “semi-automatic weapon in murdering three people. Should I conclude that if Ms. Erdal kills a Belgian in Belgium by knife, the court’s verdict would be the same? I do not think so.
View. Dr. Sedat LACINER
2 November 2005