ISTANBUL – With the death of Dursun Karataş, who died in the Netherlands last Monday of cancer, one of Turkey’s most notorious terrorists has left the stage. Karataş, leader of the far-left DHKP-C, lived in various European countries with a false identity since he escaped from an Istanbul prison in 1990. Whether the death of Karataş also means the end of DHKP-C remains unclear.
Karataş established the predecessor of DHKP-C, Dev Sol (Revolutionary Left) in 1978 when he was studying in Istanbul. The group, considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and the United States, committed their last infamous murder in 1996, when they killed one of Turkey’s richest business men, Özemdir Sabanci. Before that, the organisation had killed several politicians and military figures in the eighties.
Karataş always survived wide-ranging campaigns by the army against DHKP-C and its predecessor Dev Sol, allegedly because he was protected by high army circles and warned in advance about planned actions. As well, his escape from an İstanbul prison, together with the second-in-command of the organisation, succeeded allegedly because of help from high places. He had been in prison since 1980, when he was arrested after the military coup. He was sentenced to death, which was later commuted to life imprisonment.
In recent years Karataş was held in France and Belgium, and Turkey asked Belgium for his extradition, but last February the request was turned down. A court in Ankara recently awarded compensation to the terrorist leader because of the fact a court case against Dev Sol had dragged on for 27 years without any outcome. It is not clear who, if anyone, will succeed Karataş as leader of the DHKP-C. In some Turkish media there’s speculation that the organisation may be planning an attack soon to make clear that they are still alive despite the death of their leader.