Bavaria ends persecution of YPG / YPJ symbols

The Bavarian Supreme Court has ended the criminal prosecution against YPG / YPJ symbols. The judgment is a defeat for the Free State and the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

The Bavarian Supreme Regional Court rejected the public prosecutor's appeal against the acquittal on the case of the YPJ flags ruled by the Munich District Court. This means that YPJ / YPG flags can be shown at meetings and on the Internet in Bavaria. The judgment should have nationwide effect.

What happened?

During a demonstration against the Turkish war of aggression against Afrin, Kemal G. carried a flag of the YPJ women's defense units. He wanted to show his solidarity “with the girls and boys of the YPJ / YPG”, as he emphasized again in court on Tuesday. The public prosecutor's office in Munich therefore ruled against him a penalty order in the amount of € 2,400 for violating the Association Act §20. It was argued that he had shown a symbol that the PKK had taken over. The person concerned did not accept the sentence and a hearing took place on 13 June 2019. The court acquitted him. The court said that the YPJ flag is generally not forbidden and carrying it cannot be punished. Thereupon the public prosecutor's office went into revision because of alleged legal errors of the judgment and the case moved to the next instance.

Mathes Breuer and Dirk Asche, who defended the Kurdish man, told of the absurdity of the persecution. They argued that a conviction would massively restrict freedom of expression.

The regional court agreed with the lawyers' assessment and rejected the appeal as unfounded. All the arguments of the public prosecutor's office were rejected in the orally presented reasons for the judgment. The acquittal of the accused by the district court was not objectionable, because there was no evidence that the PKK actually usurped the symbols of the YPJ / YPG.

On the contrary, the judges emphasized, the YPJ is not a replacement for the PKK, but an organization with its own legal personality that is not prohibited.

The court continued that especially in demonstrations that focus on the situation in Afrin or all of Rojava, there was no reference to the PKK, because it was about solidarity with northern Syria. The court added that it is known that the YPJ are fighting on the side of the USA against IS. Addressing these issues is not propaganda for the PKK, even if there are political and personal ties between the YPJ and the PKK.

If the judgment is endorsed seriously, thousands of preliminary and criminal proceedings against people who showed YPG / YPJ symbols at demonstrations in Bavaria or on Facebook will have to be stopped. Just because of the shared Facebook posts by Kerem Schamberger, several hundred proceedings were initiated and people from all section of society were brought to justice, including an actor, a director and many political activists.

Attorney Breuer emphasizes that this must also have an impact on the case law in other federal states, because the decision of the Supreme Regional Court carries a great importance for other courts as well.

This ruling is cause for celebration. It ends years of uncertainty about which symbols can be shown on demonstrations without being exposed to prosecution.