DHKP-C suspects arrest in Athens: the dangerous terrorist organization and its implications for Greece – by Maria Chr. Alvanou

On Tuesday November 28 a big police operation took place in Athens resulting in the arrest of 9 suspected members of the notorious turkish terror group DHKP-C[1]. The operation took place in two areas in Athens and the findings inside the houses that were raided show serious equipment and materials that can be used for attacks[2] and reveal professionalism and planning. This police operation comes almost a week before the expected visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Greece[3] and it is the result of greek counter terrorism authorities’ research.

DHKP-C (“Devrimci Halk Kurtuluş Partisi-Cephesi” translated in English as “Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front”) is an organization to seriously reckon in Turkey regarding its ability to carry out different types of attacks and spread terror. The history of the organization goes back to the ‘70s and its origins stem from Dev Sol (“Devrimci Sol”, meaning “Revolutionary Left”) and even the political movement of Dev Yol (“Devrimci Yol” meaning “Revolutionary Path”) during turbulent political times. With Marxist-Leninist and anti-imperialist ideologist, it grew to become a very long standing violent organization that has been able to survive, adapt and remain dangerous. DHKC-P is linked to common criminality (something not strange for groups of this type, especially since for example robberies are part of the financing of terror activities)[4] and its network both in criminality, the criminal underworld and terror networks is deep and difficult to trail and combat. There have been also rumors for links with clandestine Ergenekon[5] (especially due to Asuman Akҫa’s[6] allegations that were reinforced after her assassination[7]). It is not only Greece where cells or members can be found, but also Italy[8], Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands[9] are among the countries where DHKP-C members can be found (though their stage for attacks is Turkey). Apart from the EU (where last week the entrance to DHKP-C members has been officially denied in the European Parliament[10] due to the organization being designated as a terror one), DHKP-C is listed as terror organization also in the US.

There are many different operational methods DHKP-C has used. True to the tradition of “conventional” far left groups, assassinations of business men and leading personalities of the social and economic world have been chosen as a way to spread terror and influence society. An example is the assassination of famous businessman and member of a renowned Turkish family, Özdemir Sabancı, along with the general manager of ToyotaSA on January 9, 1996[11]. The organization tried also to assassinate the academic and politician Hikmet Sami Türk in 2009[12], which also fits its agenda. Furthermore, DHKP-C has used suicide attacks as early as in 2001, proving once more (what is known to those who research terrorism) that suicide operations are not a monopoly of islamist organizations) and also carried out a suicide attack in February 2013 against the US Embassy in Ankara, continuing the fierce anti-US and anti-NATO character the organization has held since its very beginning. The organization in its operational manifestations follows closely the political and social turmoil in Turkey. Thus it staged a spectacular and highly publicized attack in Istanbul’s central courthouse at Caglayan[13], capturing and gagging the prosecutor who was handling the Bekir Elvan case (the unfortunate teenager that was shot with a tear gas canister during the Gezi Park incidents in 2013[14]), that had caused protests and unrest to the country. The attack resulted after a six hour hostage situation to the death of the attackers during a security forces operation, while the victim died in the hospital severely injured by the terrorists[15]. Additionally very notable is the presence and activity of women in DHKP-C. While also in the recent Athens arrest one of the suspects is a woman, female agents were involved in terror operations (like Fahriye Erdal in the assassination of Özdemir Sabancı [16]) and were suicide bombers[17].

 

This is not the first time DHKP-C falls in the hands of Greek authorities. There was a big arrest in 2014 of leading figures of the organization suspected to be linked with terror activities in Turkey[18]. And though there are historical tensions between Greece and Turkey, there is cooperation in the fight against terrorism. For any country having on its soil cells of terror organizations, even if there are foreign, it is not good for security as a whole. Greece is a country where tourism is its most serious and precious enterprise. An attack against turkish tourists would hurt not only human lives but also the country’s economy. For example a favorable destination is Thessaloniki, where the home of Kemal Ataturk is situated and visited by hundreds of Turks, while in the same city in the past there has been recorded DHKP-C presence[19]. Furthermore in an era of financial crisis when Greece tries to attract the interest of multinational companies and foreign companies, attacking a company of turkish interests would again have a very negative effect. Both tourism and investments thrive inside an environment of security. Additionally a terror group can endanger the relationship between states and this aspect of the connection between international relations and terrorism should also be noticed. An attack against the President of Turkey during his visit in Greece would be detrimental for the relationship between the two countries.

The cooperation of Greece and Turkey in counter- terrorism level is vital for both countries (and of course goes beyond the case of DHKP-C also to Daesh, where the role of Turkey remains crucial for all Europe). Of course this cooperation is not a rose garden without thorns. Problems can arise especially after the police arrests, during the judicial processes and especially regarding demanded extraditions on behalf of Turkey and possible objections and requests of the accused persons to be tried in Greece on grounds of concerns about human rights and fair trial violations in Turkey. Such issues can result to tensions[20]. Nevertheless the justice mechanism in Greece, which is a member of the EU and has ratified the European Convention of Human Rights (which also Turkey has ratified, but suspended in 2016[21]) – has to examine all the above legal parameters and decide accordingly, if such issues are raised.

It is becoming all the time more and more evident that the problem of terrorism in the world is not confined to Daesh, or even to the islamist extremist network as a whole. Social, financial and political background is behind other type of terror groups and their action. DHKP-C is an example of a non islamist organization that poses a serious terror threat not only in Turkey, but also potentially to the rest of Europe, even if its concern as an immediate target is Turkey. Not only that, but it shows how versatile a “conventional” terror group can be, using a variety of attack methods, copying from the islamist example. The portrait of insecurity in today’s world is painted by many colors.

[1] http://www.cnn.gr/news/ellada/story/107500/ston-eisaggelea-oi-9-prosaxthentes-apo-tin-epixeirisi-tis-antitromokratikis

[2]“Police said that searches of three homes where the Turks were detained produced detonators and materials “available on the market that could potentially be used to make explosives.””, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/greek-terror-squad-detains-9-turks-ahead-of-erdogan-visit/2017/11/28/444b9ad8-d421-11e7-9ad9-ca0619edfa05_story.html?utm_term=.c5debc39faac

[3] http://www.cnn.gr/news/politiki/story/107070/7-kai-8-dekemvrioy-stin-athina-o-erntogan

[4] Europe’s Crime-Terror Nexus: Links between terrorist and organized crime groups in the European Union, European Parliament, Brussels, 2012, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/etudes/join/2012/462503/IPOL-LIBE_ET(2012)462503_EN.pdf, p.22

[5]http://www.aksam.com.tr/guncel/dhkpcye-paralel-savunma/haber-505338 , http://www.gazetevatan.com/pkk–ergenekon–dhkp-c-ortakligi-191009-gundem/

[6] The one who accused for plotting against the life of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,

[7] http://www.gazetevatan.com/dhkp-c-li-kizi-evinde-infaz-ettiler-490773-gundem/

[8]http://www.trt.net.tr/italiano/turchia/2015/04/06/fermato-un-turco-membro-del-dhkp-c-in-italia-228584

[9] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3591119.stm

[10] https://www.ntv.com.tr/dunya/apden-pkk-ve-dhkp-cye-yasak,gVZUoxvTmkmOxYFFQTibGQ

[11] http://www.karar.com/gundem-haberleri/ismail-akkol-ozdemir-sabanci-suikasti-71018

[12] http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/hayata-donus-saldirisi-11545935

[13] http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/turkey-s-marxist-guerrillas-736481314

[14] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/gezi-victim-elvan-commemorated-on-second-anniversary-of-his-death-96350

[15]http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/hostage-drama-at-istanbul-courthouse-ends-with-two-captors-prosecutor-dead-80401

[16] Found and undergone trial in Belgium, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/belcikadan-fehriye-erdal-icin-son-dakika-karari-40371394

[17] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-33844246

[18] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/senior-members-of-dhkpc-arrested-in-greece-report-62359

[19] http://news247.gr/eidiseis/koinonia/apo-thn-triandria-ston-neo-kosmo-oi-diadromes-toy-dhkp-c-sthn-ellada.4959234.html

[20] Already such a problem can be seen by the comment in Daily Sabah: “The move was seen as improving the counter-terrorism cooperation between Turkey and Greece, although the refusal of Greek courts to extradite several suspects overshadowed the efforts”, http://www.dailysabah.com/europe/2017/11/28/greek-police-detain-9-dhkp-c-suspects-in-athens-ahead-of-erdogans-visit

[21] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/21/turkey-suspends-european-convention-on-human-rights-as-it-enacts/