Trial begins in Germany of alleged Turkish militants

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 17, 2016 7:19 AM

MUNICH (Reuters) - A trial began in Munich on Friday of 10 people with Turkish and Kurdish backgrounds accused of belonging to a left-wing militant group in Turkey, charges that defense lawyers say are politically motivated.

The nine men and one woman face charges of organizing propaganda events, raising funds and recruiting for the Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist-Leninist (TKP/ML), founded in 1972 and listed among a dozen active militant groups in Turkey.

Their lawyers say the trial is pandering to President Tayipp Erdogan, whose relationship with Germany is under strain after lawmakers labeled the 1915 mass killings of Armenians an act of genocide, and have told media that the majority of files presented in court were supplied by Turkey.

"It looks like a job on orders from Erdogan," Peer Stolle, who is representing two of the defendants, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Turkey has said it is discussing countermeasures after the ruling on the Armenian killings and that it threatens the friendship between them just as Chancellor Angela Merkel is relying on Turkey to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.

The Federal Prosecutor says the main defendant, known as Muslum E., was the leader of the foreign branch of TKP/ML from 2004 and helped raise about half a million euros ($560,000) in funds annually for the group.

The other nine are accused of being members of the leadership committee and procuring money, as well as organizing propaganda events. In addition, they allegedly recruited new members and organized a military training camp in Iraq.

The group were arrested between April and November 2015, in Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland. They do not face charges of committing acts of terror.

Describing the TKP/ML's activities, the prosecutor said in a January indictment: "The group has carried out numerous attacks with firearms and explosives and committed arson which caused many people to be killed or injured."

The trial is due to run until Oct. 28.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Louise Ireland)