Streets ablaze on anniversary of PKK

Streets ablaze on anniversary of PKK

ISTANBUL - Doğan News Agency
Streets ablaze on anniversary of PKK

A group of 40 demonstrators held a sit–in protest in Istanbul after police took some 30 people into custody. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Demonstrators took to the streets yesterday to mark the 13th anniversary of the capture of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), clashing with police in Istanbul and in the southeastern province of Şırnak.

Shops in many provinces across the country’s southeast remained closed throughout the day, as security forces took strict measures against banned demonstrations. Public transportation also came to a halt in Diyarbakır and Hakkari, according to reports.

Riot police took some 30 people into custody in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, including Asiye Kolçak and Ali Rıza Bilgili from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), after a group of 40 demonstrators held a sit–in protest on Bekar Street. Protesters and police in exchanged barrages of blast bombs, rocks, molotov cocktails, pressurized water and tear gas in Şırnak.

“The people of Batman have once again shown where the freedom of will lies, on the day that the conspiracy [that led to Öcalan’s capture] is being condemned. Our people have suspended life everywhere today. Shops were closed in many of the region’s provinces, even though no calls were issued. That is the sensitivity of the people here,” Selahattin Demirtaş, co–leader of the Peace and Democracy Party (PKK), told some 3,000 people gathered in Batman province.

PKK leader Öcalan has remained behind bars at a prison on İmralı Island for the past 13 years. He was captured in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 15, 1999.

Throughout his stay at the island prison in the Sea of Marmara, Öcalan has met with his lawyers nearly 600 times, and with relatives around 200 times, the Doğan news agency reported yesterday. On Nov. 17, 2009, five prisoners, four of them convicted PKK members, were transferred to İmralı to accompany Öcalan.

The İmralı Prison is kept under surveillance by 55 cameras, while the prison and the island’s security is served by a staff of over 1,000, a figure which includes SAS commandoes.

Öcalan, who has lost 20 kilograms since he was transferred to İmralı, has frequently complained of respiratory infections.