By Hasan Esen
BRUSSELS (AA) - Belgium has a history of looking the other way when it comes to dealing with terror groups such as the PKK, DHKP-C and FETO, while its courts hand out harsh sentences on other groups.
This demonstrates the double standards of the country in its fight against terrorism.
In 2015, a court in Belgian city of Antwerp designated Sharia4Belgium group as a terrorist organization, which was significant given that Belgian courts have never made such declarations when it comes to groups like the PKK.
Sharia4Belgium is an organization that allegedly recruited fighters for militant groups in Syria and Iraq.
In 2011, the group also allegedly called for the assassination of Framan politician Marie-Rose Morel. However, Sharia4Belgium is not known to have carried out any bomb or armed attack.
The Antwerp court had jailed Fouad Belkacem, leader of Sharia4Belgium, to 12 years in prison on terror-related charges after he was found guilty of recruiting young men to fight in Syria.
Other 44 defendants in the case had received sentences ranging from three to 12 years in jail, some of which were suspended while most were handed down in absentia.
The court had reached its decision only five months after trial began.
Also, the website of the organization was shut down in 2010, after an investigation launched by Annemie Turtelboom, the then Belgian interior minister.
While action against Sharia4Belgium was swift and harsh, Belgium’s attitude towards other terror groups like the PKK, DHKP-C and FETO has not been the same.
In 1999, some DHKP-C members were held in Belgium. Although many of its members, including head of the organization, Dursun Karatas, had been sentenced in 2006, the Anvers Appeal Court declined to designate the DHKP-C as a terror group and reversed a judgment against the members a year later, releasing all leading fellows.
In 2009, a Brussels Appeal Court revisited the case, starting from scratch following the death of Karatas. By the end of that year, the court sentenced members on individual charges and ruled that they were not terror-related crimes.
- No action against PKK
The DHKP-C is responsible for a number of terror attacks in Turkey, including the 2013 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara that left a Turkish security guard dead and a Turkish journalist injured.
The far-left group is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
In 1990s, Belgium also granted asylum to leading members of the PKK terror group, including the ones who are said to be in charge of its Europe-wide network, at a time when they were wanted by Interpol.
While many people were arrested during a raid on PKK’s two television channels in Belgium in 2010, all of them were released later.
An investigation had been launched during that time against 36 people, including leading members of PKK’s Europe network -- Remzi Kartal and Zubeyir Aydar.
The investigation ended on Nov. 3, 2016 and the Brussels Investigation Unit decided that PKK members and its leading executives were not involved in any terror act and rejected the demand to send them to a criminal court.
Although the Belgium's Federal Prosecutor's Office objected the decision, the Appeal Court dismissed the plea on Sept. 14.
The PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization also by the U.S. and the EU -- resumed its armed campaign against Turkey in July 2015. Since then, it has been responsible for the deaths of some 1,200 Turkish security personnel and civilians, including a number of women and children.
Belgium has also yet to take any steps against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), an illegal network accused of staging the deadly coup attempt on July 15, 2016, in Turkey.
The country does not call FETO a terrorist organization.
According to the Turkish government, FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara has also said FETO is behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.