Police raid Kurdish exiles in terrorism crackdown

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The Independent Online
In the lead-up to a visit to London by the Turkish Prime Minister today, police have raided two Kurdish community centres in north London. Kurds in Britain see this as part of a creeping campaign against them.

The raids took place at Kurdish centres in Haringey and Stoke Newington, under the terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The search warrant for last month's raids talked of "evidence of contributions towards acts of terrorism money, accounting records, computer records and other documentation".

Legislation still in the pipeline will make it possible to bring prosecutions against those who fundraise in Britain for what are regarded as terrorist activities elsewhere. The authorities already seem eager, however, to toughen up. A police spokesman said yesterday that the raids were in connection with an "ongoing investigation into alleged money-laundering", but added: "As in all laws, there is a certain amount of latitude." Under existing legislation, searches can be carried out under the terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act for material of substantial value for the investigation of a terrorist offence.

Many Kurds in Britain are sympathetic to the aims of the Kurdish Workers' Party, the PKK, which is involved in a long-running guerrilla struggle against the Turkish armed forces for Kurdish independence. It is legal in Britain, but the PKK is banned in several European countries, including Germany - which is especially keen to have good relations with Turkey.

Mizgin Sen, co-ordinator of the Kurdish Information Centre, expressed the fear that tougher action against Kurdish groups is "part of a criminalisation campaign against the PKK ... this is definitely a sign in that direction."

The US State Department also placed the PKK on a recently published blacklist of "foreign terrorist organisations". Under the American rules, it is a criminal offence to supply funds to the designated organisations. Members of the listed organisations can be denied entry or expelled from the United States. Bank accounts can be blocked.

Last month's swoop on the offices of the Kurdish Workers' Association came ahead of today's visit to London by the Turkish Prime Minister, Mesut Yilmaz, who is due to meet Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street. Turkey's bid for membership of the European Union will be on the agenda. Harsh Turkish policies towards Kurds have been raised by critics of the Turkish government as an important reason for refusing the Turkish application.

The peace campaigner, Bianca Jagger, delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street yesterday, which called for a "peaceful settlement to the Kurdish conflict" and an end to human rights abuses.

- Steve Crawshaw

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