THREE Kurdish men were found today to have known that flags they were carrying were those of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Ismael Akdogan, 43, Rotinda Demir, 21, and Rahman Pwr, 23, all admitted carrying a PKK flag during a central London demonstration on January 27 opposing the Turkish bombardment of Afrin, but they denied knowing it was a PKK flag.
The PKK was banned in 2001 under the Terrorism Act, section 13 of which makes it an offence for someone to display an article in a way arousing “reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.”
Mr Pwr told Westminster magistrates’ court: “As a Kurd, I felt the only thing I was doing [by holding the flag] was to raise the voice or do something to get the world to hear Afrin’s voice.”
Mr Akdogan told the court that he abhorred violence, saying: “Problems cannot be resolved with violence – using violence will not get anyone anywhere.”
Mr Demir said he was at the protest to “let people know” about the suffering of the people of Afrin, adding that the flag he was carrying “symbolises Kurdistan, the Kurdish struggle for freedom.”
In closing submissions, Jude Bunting, for Mr Pwr, said that to suggest that anyone attending the demonstration to display support for the people of Afrin therefore knew of the PKK was “a genuinely Orwellian proposition.”
Alex Rose, for Mr Akdogan and Mr Demir, said it was “telling” that Metropolitan Police officers themselves required a specialist “flag unit” and pre-demo briefing to identify what was and was not an illegal flag.
But district judge Michael Snow ruled that the “mental element” of the offence was made out.
The court then heard legal arguments as to whether s13 was compatible with the Human Rights Act, which will be ruled on on Monday.
Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign co-secretary Rosa Gilbert told the Star it was “utterly outrageous” that the Crown Prosecution Service had brought “this clearly politicised case.”
She added: “Supporting the Kurdish cause and displaying symbols related to Kurdish resistance against oppression should not be a crime.”
Mr Akdogan, of Peterborough, Mr Demir, of Hackney, east London, and Mr Pwr, of Birmingham, all deny carrying an article supporting a proscribed organisation.
The hearing continues.
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