Analysts: PKK should withdraw secretly to avoid damaging process

14 April 2013 /BETÜL AKKAYA DEMİRBAŞ,  ZAMAN – Analysts suggest that terrorists of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) should withdraw from Turkey secretly just as they did when entering the country so that they will not be captured or be subjected to legal action by judicial authorities during the withdrawal, and the settlement process will not come to an unexpected halt.

As state authorities and the jailed leader of the PKK carry on talks for the withdrawal of terrorists from Turkish soil, questions emerge as to whether terrorists will be captured by security forces as they leave Turkey or whether prosecutors will launch an investigation into the terrorists for their unlawful acts in the country.

Such actions against terrorists are possible under Turkish law. However, jurists believe neither scenario will happen if they withdraw from the country secretly without being spotted by anyone.

“The settlement process is a political process, and it is going on under the initiative of the government. The acts of the executive branch are subject to the overview and monitoring of the judiciary. … If security forces or prosecutors do not take any action against terrorists when withdrawing if they happen to see them or spot their locations, then they may face disciplinary action on accusations of neglecting their duty. But if terrorists leave Turkey secretly as they did when entering the country, then there will be no problem,” stated Reşat Petek, a retired public prosecutor, in remarks to Sunday’s Zaman.

Turkish state authorities, with the aim of achieving a timetable for the disarmament of PKK terrorists, have been holding settlement negotiations with the PKK’s jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, since last October. Öcalan has significant influence among PKK members and supporters, and the state believes that talks with Öcalan will achieve its goals of a withdrawal and, in the long run, full disarmament.

The idea of prosecutors’ launching an investigation into PKK members for their terrorist activities inside the country was raised by the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, in early April. When speaking to reporters, Bahçeli said he believes that a “patriot prosecutor will emerge some day to investigate what is going on with the settlement process.” “Existing laws do not contain articles that approve of the [settlement] process. Therefore, it would be beneficial if a prosecutor were to investigate the process,” he added. The MHP strongly opposes peace talks with Öcalan and harshly criticizes the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, claiming that it is preparing the groundwork for the division of the country.

A similar call on prosecutors came from Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Emine Ülker Tarhan, who said earlier this month that members of the judiciary should be spurred into action against the settlement process but that she does not think that there is any “brave prosecutor” in Turkey to investigate the process.

Speculation was raised last week by a newspaper that the government may issue a written order for members of the military not to attack PKK terrorists or try to capture them as they withdraw from Turkey. The prime minister immediately responded to the speculation by saying the government has no such plans for the moment but if it does some day, it will not hesitate to issue such orders to the military or police force. According to Petek, the law does not allow terrorists to stay inside Turkey. However, he said, terrorists have been known to be inside Turkey for many years. “Prosecutors need something concrete to act against terrorists. This means that locations of terrorists should be spotted and they should be captured. Otherwise, prosecutors cannot launch an investigation into terrorists. People in Turkey have long known that there are terrorists in the country, but no legal action has been taken against them,” the retired prosecutor said.

Petek added that Turkey is going through very sensitive times and that all state organs should do what falls on them to facilitate the settlement process.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin stated in late March that he does not fear undergoing an investigation or a criminal case some day in the future due to his role in the settlement process. “Will someone come out some day and ask me why I tried bringing peace to Turkey? Is working for peace a crime? If that’s a crime, then I am committing that crime,” he said.

State and government officials may also face investigations for being involved in talks with the PKK chief as part of the settlement process. Prosecutors last year sought to hear National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan’s testimony regarding his involvement in the government’s talks, called the Oslo talks, with the PKK in 2010. However, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan turned down the prosecutor’s request regarding Fidan. However, the prime minister permitted the prosecutors to hear the testimony of four other MİT officials about the talks.

According to Gültekin Avcı, a former public prosecutor, Turkish laws do not allow terrorists, even if weapons-free, to walk past security forces when leaving Turkey as part of the withdrawal process. “According to the laws, prosecutors or security officials who see those terrorists are obliged to act [to capture or launch an investigation against them]. But if this happens, a political crisis will happen. And this will lead to undesired results [that will damage the settlement process]. Expecting prosecutors or security officials not to act [against terrorists] would mean to expect the law not to function due to [pressure coming from] politics,” stated Avcı, and suggested, like Petek, that terrorists leave the country secretly.

“Just as the justice minister said, terrorists should leave the country without being seen by anyone and without turning the withdrawal into a show of power in particular. They should leave secretly just as they entered the country. In such a case, judicial authorities and the security forces will not have to pretend as if they did not see the terrorists withdrawing,” Avcı stated.