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Belgium convicts Turkish hit team in absentia for foiled assassination attempt

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A Belgian appeals court has convicted in absentia two members of a Turkish hit team who authorities say were preparing for attacks on Remzi Kartal, co-chair of the People’s Congress of Kurdistan (Kongra-Gel), and Zübeyir Aydar, a member of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), in 2017, according to Belgian media reports.

The Brussels Court of Appeals handed down five-year sentences to the two individuals, both of whom remain at large, last month. This verdict comes after an initial acquittal in 2022 was overturned.

A Belgian police operation in 2017 uncovered a murder plot against Kurdish activists led by a team that included Zekeriya Çelikbilek, a former Turkish military officer and French citizen; Yakup Koç, who was found with a Turkish police ID; and Hacı Akkulak, a Kurd living in Belgium.

Their surveillance of the Kurdish National Congress building in Brussels raised the alarm and led to police intervention.

Although Çelikbilek and Koç had already left Belgium by the time of a later police operation, their links to Turkish state officials were suggested by photographs, including Çelikbilek with the Turkish ambassador to France and at the Turkish presidential palace.

These images, as well as the assassination of three Kurdish politicians in Paris in 2013 and the alleged involvement of Turkish intelligence, underline the allegations of Turkish espionage operations in Europe.

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