Judges ruling for extradiction request may set a precendent

A  Judge’s ruling that Turkey’s pursuit of Deniz Akgul is ‘in bad faith’ is likely to set precedent for suspects from Kurdish backgrounds.  The decision by district judge Shenagh Bayne at Westminster magistrates court to dismiss the request against Deniz Akgul as an “abuse of process” is likely to set a precedent for suspects from Kurdish ethnic backgrounds and may have diplomatic repercussions.

In a case handled by Ozlem Erbil Cetin, a Westminster magistrates court was told that Deniz Akgul had been tortured by Turkish police in the early 1990s. The court discovered that Akgul had been convicted in his absence while extradition proceedings against him were still continuing.

The damning ruling concluded that: “There are reasonable grounds to believe that the Turkish authorities have acted in bad faith in respect of these proceedings and have gone to the extent of misleading this court … I am satisfied that conduct amounting to an abuse of the extradition process has occurred and I would not accede to the request to extradite as a result.”

The Turkish request to detain Akgul – who originally applied for political asylum in the UK in 1994 and has since been granted a British passport – was heard at Westminster magistrates court, which considers most extradition cases.

Akgul, 40, a leftwing sympathiser, had been tortured by Turkish police in the early 1990s, the court was told. His barrister, Ben Cooper, of Doughty Street chambers, said his mistreatment had included “being physically beaten with weapons and whilst blindfolded, being threatened with a snake, being bitten by a dog and prolonged detention without food, water or sanitary facilities”. He had also, as a child, witnessed his grandfather receiving fatal injuries when beaten by Turkish soldiers, Cooper added.

Akgul intermittently returned to visit his family in Turkey and in 2010 was accused of providing food, sheep, books and digital cameras to members of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ party). He was convicted but appealed on the grounds that the main prosecution witness had withdrawn all identification evidence against him.

In the meantime, Akgul left Turkey. The Turkish authorities began extradition proceedings against him in the UK in 2012 but also re-tried him last November in his absence, under a new law, and convicted him again.

Commenting on his complex legal status, district judge Bayne said: “During the course of these extradition proceedings [Akgul] has moved from being a person convicted [in Turkey], to being unconvicted and liable to a retrial and then, finally, to being convicted ‘in absentia’.

“I am satisfied that he did not deliberately absent himself from the retrial. At the relevant date the Turkish authorities were well aware of the fact that [Akgul] is subject to extradition proceedings which he is contesting and well aware of the fact that he is not allowed to leave this jurisdiction as he is subject to bail conditions … He was entitled to expect that the retrial would await the decision of this court in respect of extradition.”

In the judgment Bayne added: “I find that the evidence of previous ill treatment, which I accept in its entirety … results in an enhanced risk that he will face ill treatment were he to be returned … There were indeed significant shortcomings in both the trial at first instance and the subsequent re-trial.

“Whilst the ill treatment that founded his application for asylum dates back a long time there is ample evidence [in public material] to … show that the Turkish authorities have made no significant improvements in recent years.”

Read the full story in The Guardian

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