Öcalan is leader, not criminal: BDP deputy

Öcalan is leader, not criminal: BDP deputy

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Öcalan is leader, not criminal: BDP deputy

Pervin Buldan (R), deputy Parliamentary group leader of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), is seen next to BDP lawmaker Hatip Dicle during a press conference. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Millions of Kurds uphold Abdullah Öcalan, the convicted leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who serves lifetime prison in İmralı, as their “leader” and have never viewed him as a criminal, a senior member of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said yesterday in remarks likely to fuel a war of words with the prime minister.

“We have never seen Öcalan as a murderer. We, the Kurdish people, have always seen Öcalan as a leader,” the BDP’s deputy group chair Pervin Buldan told a press conference in Parliament.

She made the remarks in comments on an Appeals Court ruling, which said that calling Öcalan “sayın” – the Turkish word for “mister” which doubles also as “esteemed” – cannot be considered a crime and should be seen within the scope of free speech.

The Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned a ruling sentencing two Kurdish politicians to prison terms for referring to Öcalan as “esteemed.” The appeals court referred both to the Turkish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights to justify its decision, arguing the act in question fell within the boundaries of the freedom of speech and thus repudiating the Ankara court that had sentenced the suspects to six months in prison each.

Prosecutors with special authority in Ankara had filed the suit against Selim Sadak, a member of the BDP, and Hatip Dicle, who was stripped of his deputyship by the Higher Election Board (YSK) after he was elected to Parliament in the June 12, 2011, general elections, had referred to Öcalan as “esteemed” and PKK militants as “guerillas” during an interview.

Buldan rejected recent accusations by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the BDP was encouraging the PKK to stick to the arms, stressing that it was up to the government to convince the group to renounce violence. She reiterated that Ankara should hold talks on a possible settlement with Öcalan rather than the BDP, which Erdoğan has described as “political extension” of the PKK. “Instead of provoking the [PKK] people in the mountains, you are supposed to find ways of bringing them down.If millions of people in Turkey have declared Öcalan as their leader, this reality must be acknowledged,” Buldan said.