PKK to return captives to government at Habur border gate

PKK to return captives to government at Habur border gate

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
PKK to return captives to government at Habur border gate

A team of Turkish soldiers are seen seeking the officials kidnapped by the outlawed PKK militants in this file photo. The PKK may release the captives soon. DHA photo

The government is adamant that the handover of eight public servants and soldiers held by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) should not be turned into a show of force, at the risk of derailing the ongoing peace process.

The greatly anticipated handover is expected to take place at the Habur border crossing on March 12, following tough negotiations.

“This handover must not turn in any way into propaganda by the PKK. This is going to be different from the Habur experience of 2009,” a senior government official told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. State officials wanted to transfer the captives from Erbil to Turkey by plane, but this option was rejected by the PKK, according to the official. Turkish state officials rejected the PKK’s proposal to hand the eight captives over to their families, amid concerns that it could turn into a show by the PKK. After negotiations, the captives will be brought to the Habur border gate, accompanied by a delegation from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), where they will be handed over to government officials.

Measures against show

“All measures have been taken to prevent this from becoming a media show,” the official stressed. Underlining that the captives could have psychological problems due their long-term captivity, the official said the state was ready to extend medical assistance to them, adding that they will not be shown in the media. Speaking to the media, Interior Minister Muammer Güler confirmed that the handover of public servants and soldiers may take place on March 12, “We were told that a delegation composed of three BDP lawmakers, the head of the Human Rights Association (İHD), İHD Diyarbakır Provincial Chairman, as well as the head of the Association for Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (Mazlum-Der), will go [to northern Iraq] and [the captives] will be handed over to us [March 12].”

The delegation will consist of BDP Istanbul Deputy Sebahat Tuncel, BDP Bitlis Deputy Hüsamettin Zenderlioğlu, BDP Hakkari Deputy Adil Kurt as well as İHD head Öztürk Türkdoğan, İHD Diyarbakır Provincial Chair Raci Bilici and the head of Mazlum-Der, Faruk Ünsal.

A government delegation led by a deputy undersecretary of the Interior Ministry has been stationed at the Habur border gate since March 8, Güler said, adding that the abducted soldiers and public servants are expected to join them at the gate.

The government will not allow a “show of force,” Güler said, in reference to the Habur incident of 2009 during which a process launch by the government to accept eight PKK members and 28 Kurdish refugees from northern Iraq was disrupted by a festive welcome in Habur. The incident was perceived as “a show of force” by the government and sparked public outcry throughout the rest of Turkey, eventually causing the peace initiative at that time to come to a halt.

BDP deputy parliamentary group chair İdris Baluken strictly rejected any analogy between the upcoming handover and the Habur incident of 2009. Responses to letters from the PKK’s jailed leader by the PKK’s base in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq and its European wing are expected to be received by the BDP later this week, Baluken said.