A French court has convicted 11 individuals alleged to be members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for terror financing, as part of the PKK’s campaign for autonomy for the Kurdish minority in Turkey’s South-East. The accused, who are Kurds from Turkey residing in France, were found to be part of a network collecting funds through a “kampanya” or revolutionary tax from the Kurdish diaspora.
Deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and Turkey, the PKK has been engaged in a decades-long armed struggle against Ankara for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority. Organized cells of the PKK are believed to be active among France’s up to 150,000 Kurdish residents, as well as among the 100,000 in the Netherlands and the million-strong community in Germany.
The Paris court found that “significant amounts” of funds had been obtained through threats, including “exclusion from the community”. Four of the accused were already detained, and two failed to appear before the court. The defendants denied belonging to the PKK, claiming it had no presence in France.
The sentences ranged from suspended three-year prison terms to five years behind bars with one year suspended. However, the court did not ban the defendants from French territory, as is common in terrorism cases, due to their refugee status in France.
The investigation began in 2020, when two Kurdish women aged 18 and 19 were reported missing in South-East France. It soon emerged that they had left for PKK training camps elsewhere in Europe. The inquiry revealed a network based around a Kurdish association in the southern city of Marseille, which prosecutors say was collecting a form of community tax, the “kampanya”, that funds the PKK.
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. Investigators believe around two million euros ($2.2 million) are collected in South-East France each year.