PKK leader might be free next year: Deputy

PKK leader might be free next year: Deputy

DİYARBAKIR – Doğan News Agency
PKK leader might be free next year: Deputy

Sırrı Süreyya Önder speaks during a rally in Diyarbakır, June 19. AA Photo

A prominent lawmaker of the People’s Democracy Party’s (HDP), Sırrı Süreyya Önder, has said that the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, may be released within a year.

Önder, who is one of the regular members of the parliamentary delegations that visit the PKK leader in his cell in Imralı Island prison, said during a speech in Diyarbakır that reaching peace on the Kurdish issue would be “very difficult without freeing Öcalan.”

“We are bringing to you Öcalan’s greetings for the last time. If the Turkish people’s fight for democracy and freedom develops with determination Öcalan will come to personally greet you from this square,” said Önder on June 20 during a “Resolution and Freedom” rally in Diyarbakır’s İstasyon Square.

The Kurdish peace process, launched in January 2013 and boosted with Öcalan’s declaration of a cease-fire during Nevruz on the same year, has been stalled for over a year, with Kurdish politicians criticizing the government’s apparent reluctance to pass comprehensive reforms that could settle the four-decade-long conflict.

“Öcalan does not see [his release] as his own freedom. We have made over 20 visits to him. We never spoke about this once. He says, ‘Either we are all free, or we are all captive,’” Önder added, stressing that “defending Öcalan’s release also meant defending peace.”

The government has repeatedly denied that Öcalan could be released or sent to house arrest in the wake of the peace process.

The HDP was established as an umbrella party comprising the predominantly Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and small socialist and other leftist parties last October.

Önder, a former movie director and columnist who was in the frontline during last year’s Gezi protest, also joined the HDP ahead of the local elections in March and ran for the Istanbul mayoralty.