France convicts 11 Turkish Kurds of PKK of ‘terror financing’

A French court has convicted 11 members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on charges of terror financing, with the sentences ranging from suspended three-year prison terms to five years behind bars with one year suspended.

The militants, which are all Kurds and speak little or no French, were charged with being part of a network that seeks revolutionary tax from the Kurdish Diaspora.

The Paris court says it has found that “significant amounts” of funds had been obtained through threats that included “exclusion from the community.”

Four of the defendants were already detained, and two failed to appear before the court.

However, the court did not ban the militants from French territory, while is common in terrorism cases.

The PKK has been waging a decades-long armed insurgency against Ankara for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority in the Turkish southeast.

The defendants denied belonging to the PKK, saying it had no presence in France. However, organized cells of the group are believed to be active among Kurdish residents of France, the Netherlands, and the million-strong community of Germany.

The investigation of the case began in 2020, when two Kurdish women, aged 18 and 19, were reported leaving France for PKK training camps elsewhere in Europe.

Moreover, the inquiry revealed a network based on a Kurdish association in the southern city of Marseilles, which prosecutors say was raising a form of community tax that funds the PKK terrorists. Investigators believe about $2.2 million is collected in southeastern France each year.

Testimony and phone tapping revealed harassment and extortion of diaspora members, investigators said, as the “tax collectors” set arbitrary contributions for individuals based on their estimated income.

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