Can Ocalan Exchange Prison Cell For House Arrest?

by HEMIN KHOSHNAW – RUDAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, cannot exchange his Turkish prison cell for house arrest without amendments to a 2006 law that has applied to several cases in the past, said a Kurdish politician and lawyer

Since talks with Ankara at Ocalan’s prison cell on Turkey’s Imrali island early this year, the rebels have announced a ceasefire and a phased withdrawal starting May 8. They have also indicated that, although it is too early to talk about Ocalan, the group’s end goal is his transfer from prison as a condition for lasting peace.

The peace process has stirred talk that Ocalan could use a 2006 law, passed to allow former Turkish premier Necmettin Erbakan avoid jail in favor of house arrest after he was forced down, to leave prison. Article 110 of the Turkish Penal Code allows convicts who are no less than 75 years old and sentenced for no less than three years in prison, to serve their sentences under house arrest.Ocalan, 65, was sentenced to death after his 1999 capture, and under Turkish law must serve a life sentence.

Sedat Yurtas, lawyer and Kurdish politician, noted that Ocalan was not covered by that law, first because he is less than 75.

“An amendment is required to be made by looking into the seriousness of the crime and taking into consideration the age and the period served in prison by the convict,” Yurtas said. Nazife Babayigit, the 77-year-old Kurdish mother sentenced to jail for sending clothes to her son who was a PKK rebel, also benefited from that law. “The Babayigit and Ocalan cases are different. The political will must be very strong to take such action,” said Yurtas. “I believe that after the withdrawal of the guerrilla forces from Turkey there will be changes in the Turkish constitution and a more proper condition will be created to discuss transferring Ocalan to house arrest,” Yurtas said.