Quarrel over jailed PKK leader Öcalan visit

Quarrel over jailed PKK leader Öcalan visit

Quarrel over jailed PKK leader Öcalan visit

Mehmet Öcalan, brother of Abdullah Öcalan. AA photo

The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the Justice Ministry have traded barbs after the former said the ministry had no right to designate the party’s choices for a new trip to visit the jailed head of Kurdish militants as part of a fledgling peace effort.

“The Justice Ministry may allow parliamentarians to visit İmralı island, but the ministry cannot designate [the delegation]. We as the BDP have decided [the visitor list]. It’s up to government whether or not to allow such a visit. We previously said we will not block the process if they can conduct it without us. But we cannot work together with a political mentality that imposes a discussion over names,” BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş told reporters in Diyarbakır ahead of a Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) hearing.
Outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan is imprisoned on İmralı island.

Demirtaş said the between Öcalan and his lawyers and family, as well as politicians, should “become normal” if the recent process is to continue.

“As a lawmaker, I can visit Diyarbakır Prison anytime I wish; there’s no obstacle. If İmralı Prison has the same legal status as Diyarbakır, visits should not be subject to the permission of the prime minister or another minister. The process should continue with normalization,” Demirtaş said.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ, in response, said speaking in conditional clauses was not an appropriate approach for the ongoing peace process.

“Speaking with conditional clauses like ‘If our proposal for delegation is accepted or not...’ is not an appropriate approach. The more one speaks with conditional clauses, the more he makes mistakes,” Bozdağ said in Ankara ahead of the ruling party’s Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting. “The Justice Ministry will decide whom to allow [for the İmralı visit].”

Parliamentarians Ahmet Türk and Ayla Akat Ata visited Öcalan on İmralı on Jan. 3 as part of the “peace process” that involves government officials’ talks with Öcalan.

Following days of uncertainty on when a second BDP visit to İmralı would take place, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Feb. 17 that the names were notified to the government and that they would give a decision later in the day.

Türk is on the BDP’s list for the second visit as well, although it was earlier rumored that Erdoğan would veto his presence due to his “inappropriate statements” after the first visit. The BDP has pushed for the delegation to include one of the party’s co-chairpersons, Demirtaş or Gültan Kışanak, but the latter has been ruled out because she was photographed embracing PKK militants last summer.

Alongside Demirtaş, BDP deputy parliamentary group chair Pervin Buldan could also join the delegation.

Meanwhile, Murat Karayılan, a senior PKK member, said in an interview published by Fırat news agency yesterday that the organization was doubtful about the Turkish government’s sincerity about the process.

“How fair it is to ask the Turkish side to take unilateral steps without taking any steps itself, especially at a time when it is increasing the pressure,” he said.