French investigation into Kurdish murders eyes Turkey connections


* Turkish immigrant to France jailed for Kurdish murders

* French magistrate eyes trips, calls to Turkey for clues

* Delay in seeking Turkish aid shows politicaltension-lawyers

By Nicholas Vinocur

PARIS, Oct 23 (Reuters) - French investigators trying tosolve the murder of three Kurdish activists in Paris havecollected evidence about the chief suspect's connections toTurkey, four sources with knowledge of the investigation toldReuters.

Police sources told Reuters the magistrate in charge of thecase was about to lodge a formal appeal for information toTurkey about Omer Guney, a Turkish immigrant placed under formalinvestigation for the triple murder eight months ago.

The move could mark a turning point in the case, which hasbecome a rallying cry for Europe's large population of ethnicKurds. It comes after disclosures that Guney took at least threetrips to Turkey and made dozens of phone calls to contacts therein the months before the killings, lawyers with access toinvestigation files told Reuters.

Turkey's justice ministry said it had so far received norequest from France for judicial cooperation in the case.

"As of Oct. 23, 2011, no request for legal assistance fromFrench judicial authorities has been submitted to either theTurkish Justice Ministry or any other Turkish judicialinstitution," it said in a statement on its web site.

The murders of Sakine Cansiz, 55, a founding member of theKurdistan Workers Party (PKK); Fidan Dogan, 32, a spokeswomanfor the cause in France and Europe; and a trainee named LeylaSaylemez, 25, sent a shockwave through Europe's large Kurdishcommunity. The women were shot as ceasefire talks to end 29years of war between the PKK and Turkey were starting.

The key question asked by lawyers and victims' familymembers is who ordered the killing. Kurds who gather each weekby the crime scene say it was a political assassination.

French police quickly arrested Guney, 30. Surveillancefootage placed him at the scene, and partial DNA from one of thevictims was found on a parka belonging to him, lawyers said.

Guney, who says he is innocent, has been awaiting trial foreight months in solitary confinement near Paris. His lawyer,Anne-Sophie Laguens, said she planned to apply to have him freedunder court supervision because he was not receiving propertreatment for a brain tumour that induced seizures.

Laguens said she was also waiting for answers from Turkeyregarding her client's trips. Guney told investigators he hadtravelled to Turkey to find a wife and had bought tickets withdisability payments he received from the French state.


Lawyers both for Guney and the victims' families in Franceand in Turkey say the investigation has dragged due to concernabout political fallout from a case involving two NATO allieslinked by a 2011 bilateral security accord.

"It's my impression that we (the French investigation) havereceived more information in this case through Turkish mediathan through international cooperation," said Antoine Comte, alawyer for the Kurdish victims in France.

Police sources said Turkey had earlier provided somebiographical information about Guney, though the Turkish justiceministry statement made clear it had not been asked for any suchcooperation.

A spokesman for France's foreign ministry said the Frenchstate exerts no influence over judicial investigations.

Paris' anti-terrorism court denied that political tension wasslowing down the case.

New evidence could upset a ceasefire brokered between thePKK and Turkey: Kurdish rebels are disappointed with Turkishefforts to address their grievances and have said they areconsidering whether to maintain the deal.

Lawyers also questioned the efficiency of judicialcooperation after the Turkish pro-government newspaper Bugunwrote that the prosecutor in Ankara had accused Frenchauthorities in August of failing to respond to his requests fordetails in the case.

Turkish media wrote earlier this year that the Ankaraprosecutor is conducting a separate probe under an article ofpenal law which says a person who commits a crime abroad whilein the service of the Turkish state can be tried in Turkey, evenif he is already found guilty abroad and/or has served time.

Turkish media said the Ankara prosecutor is seeking toestablish whether Guney was in the service of the Turkish state.The prosecutor's office did not respond to requests for comment.

"We feel that since the crime was committed in France, thereal interlocutors are the French authorities. They must respondto the Turkish requests for information," said Meral DanisBestas, a lawyer in Turkey for the victims' families.

Two pieces of evidence in investigation files highlightGuney's alleged ties to people in Turkey: three trips in August,October and December of 2012, and phone records from one of fivecell phones that police say belonged to Guney. The latter show"dozens" of calls to Turkish numbers in the same period.


Comte said records of Guney's phone activity with Turkeywere placed in the investigations file in July, five monthsafter his arrest. These contacts could be crucial to finding outwhether Guney was involved in the killings and, if so, with orwithout foreign backing. However, the details cannot be checkedwithout help from Turkey, Comte said.

"You need an order from a Turkish judge to identify theinterlocutors," said another lawyer for the victims' families,Jean-Louis Malterre.

In France lawyers for victims can join criminal proceedings.They have access to investigation files and participate intrials. The Turkish system has similar provisions.

While the French magistrate prepares to seek informationfrom Turkey, one of the lawyers with access to the investigationfile pointed to hold-ups on the French side.

A month after Guney's arrest, investigators from the Frenchanti-terrorist unit, Sdat, checked the contents of a borrowedPeugeot car he used on the day of the killing; it was theirsecond try. Dismantling the car, they found a passport behindthe radio with stamps for three trips to Turkey, and adry-cleaning bill dated a few days after the killings, Comtesaid.

"When Guney was brought in, they missed half the things inhis car," the lawyer said. "The dry-cleaning bill didn't enterthe investigation file until a month later. If you look at thetranscripts of the first hours of questioning, all they aredoing is trying to update their archives about PKK activities."

Police sources had no comment on allegations that evidencewas missed in the first search of Guney's car. They saidquestioning had focused on his links to the PKK because heclaimed to be a member. PKK officials have denied Guney was amember of the group.

The appeal to Turkey for judicial help, to be lodged byinvestigating magistrate Jeanne Duye, comes after similarrequests were sent to Holland and Germany - where Guney livedfor nine years - and received replies.

Other factors are also complicating the investigation. OnSept. 25 Duye's computer containing judicial files was stolenfrom her home. Duye's office did not respond to a request forcomment. Duye has not spoken publicly about the murder case.

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