Life for Kurd who alleged Turkish government drug scandal (The Big Issue)

Life for Kurd who alleged Turkish government drug scandal
By Adrian Gatton
The Big Issue
5 August 2002

The British-based family of the jailed co-founder of the exile political group, Kurdish Parliament in Exile, last week vowed to fight a shock decision by a Dutch appeal court to increase his sentence from 20 years to life imprisonment.

Huseyin Baybasin, a Kurd from Turkey, (pictured) has made a series of sensational allegations from his jail cell about Turkish government complicity in the £25-billion heroin trade. According to official estimates, 80 per cent of the heroin on Britain’s streets is trafficked via Turkey.

Baybasin, who has been an outspoken critic of Turkish government corruption since 1989, was arrested in Holland in 1998 as simultaneous raids in seven countries netted members of the Baybasin extended family.

In February 2001, Baybasin was convicted and sentenced by a Dutch court to 20 years for contract killings, kidnapping and drug trafficking. The case rested on 6,000 intercepted telephone conversations. During the appeal, rejected last week, the defence, backed up by a former Dutch military intelligence officer, pointed to “clear irregularities” in the recordings, arguing they had been tampered with. Judges in Amsterdam were unconvinced and, in an unusual move, increased the sentence to life.

Baybasin’s claims have recently been published in a book, Trial By Silence, which is banned in Turkey. He describes links between mafia syndicates and the Turkish elite. This echoes British Customs and Excise’s concerns that Turkish drug gangs are protected by the Turkish state. He also exposes details of Turkey’s ‘dirty war’ against the Kurds.

Baybasin, from the south-eastern border town of Lice, was drawn into the Turkish underworld after he sold black market cigarettes in Istanbul. A British court sentence him in 1984 for drug trafficking. He was returned to Turkey shortly afterwards and released.

Baybasin’s lawyer, Adele van der Plas, said she would be taking the case to the Dutch Supreme Court. His family, who live in north London, are distressed that he is forbidden to speak to his young son in his native Kurdish language and to his mother, who speaks only Kurdish. Younger brother Mesud Baybasin said: “He is being silenced because of his revelations about the dirty war in Turkey.”

Baybasin’s claims follow numerous allegations about the Turkish establishments links with organised crime syndicates. In 1996 a car crash near Istanbul sparked scandal when it emerged that the passengers were a top crime boss, a senior police commander, a beauty queen and an MP.

Van der Plas said Dutch and Turkish prosecutors had collaborated on the case and added: “This is very political. He is an enemy of the Turkish state. This is a shameful day for Dutch law.”

Claude Moraes, Labour MEP for London, who has had a long-standing interest in Kurdish affairs, said: “I am deeply concerned about the treatment of Mr Baybasin and I will be raising questions about this case in the European Parliament.”