Turkish PM denies general amnesty claims

Turkish PM denies general amnesty claims

Turkish PM denies general amnesty claims

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Nov 19 defended his weekend Diyarbakır speech in which he said the word “Kurdistan,” in a weekly parliamentary meeting. DHA photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has strictly ruled out comments that the government was considering a general amnesty for members of the outlawed groups as part of renewed efforts to restart a stalled peace process involving the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“That means I couldn’t make my point well,” Erdoğan initially said on Nov. 19 when he was reminded of interpretations of his own remarks delivered in Diyarbakır over the weekend.

“We will witness a new Turkey where those in the mountains come down, the prisons empty and 76 million [citizens of Turkey] become united,” Erdoğan said.

His remarks have been widely interpreted by both media and politicians as a veiled reference to a general amnesty.

“Since when have I been saying that ‘Something called general amnesty is definitely not on our agenda.’ I’m explaining my dreams and you are talking about a general amnesty. There is no such thing. Definitely not,” Erdoğan elaborated as of Nov. 19.

A general amnesty has been a popular topic as part of a government-led resolution process aimed at ending the three-decade long conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the PKK in hopes of paving the way for resolution of the century-old Kurdish issue.

As a probable beneficiary of such an amnesty, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is serving a life-sentence and playing a central role in the process, also comes on the agenda whenever the issue is whether a general amnesty is possible.

Last year, Öcalan began talks with Turkish officials led by Undersecretary of National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Hakan Fidan to halt the conflict that has left more than 40,000 people dead. He ordered his fighters in March to cease fire.

The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

The idea of an amnesty which would pave the way for the release of both PKK prisoners and convicts involved in several coup plot cases, such as Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) in which retired top generals are convicted, is also being floated from time to time as a means to secure social peace.

The government, however, has never confirmed its consideration of this option.

Response to ‘Kurdistan’ criticisms 

Meanwhile, Erdoğan has defended his weekend Diyarbakır speech in which he said the word “Kurdistan” publicly for the first time following reactions from opposition party deputies.

“[Opposition deputies] can go and read the first assembly of the Turkish Republic’s parliamentary records. They will see the word ‘Kurdistan’ in those minutes, and if they go back in history, they will see Ottoman Empire’s east and southeast parts called ‘Kurdistan,’” Erdoğan said Nov. 19.

Erdoğan held a historic meeting on Nov. 16 with the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masoud Barzani, amid a concert featuring Kurdish-origin singers İbrahim Tatlıses and Şivan Perwer. During the event, Erdoğan extended greetings to the people “of the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.”