MİT prevented by military from talking with Öcalan

14 January 2013 / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL – Earlier attempts at starting negotiations with the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, were blocked by the Turkish military, according to Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman Mehmet Ali Şahin, who previously served as justice minister.

Şahin, who spoke at the AK Party headquarters on Saturday during an evaluation meeting, revealed that during his term as justice minister, then-MİT Undersecretary Emre Taner had plans to visit İmralı, the island where Öcalan is serving life in isolation. The Bursa Garrison Command stopped Taner. Şahin said: “I told Taner to apply to the Bursa Prosecutor’s Office when he said he wanted to go to İmralı. About 10 days after our first meeting, he said the prosecutor’s office had turned his request down on the grounds that the commander of the Bursa Garrison did not give his permission.”

Şahin did not provide a timeframe, but Taner retired from MİT in May 2010. Şahin served as justice minister from August 2009 to June 2011.

He said the military’s intervention was indicative of the situation in Turkey at the time concerning the influence of the military, and showed the narrow field that civilian politicians were allowed to do their job. “But Turkey is no longer the Turkey of those days. Now, civilian politics dominate every issue and cherish the trust of the people to solve all the issues. The role played by our Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül with their determination and the role of the AK Party government is huge.” Şahin also commented on ongoing talks with Öcalan, recalling that shortly after it was announced that negotiations were being held, the PKK attacked a military outpost and three PKK-related Kurdish activists were executed a few days later. “What is the purpose here?” he asked. “Some circles don’t want the terrorist organization to lay down its arms. They want this to continue forever and they are in a rush. At a time when pro-war groups are hurrying [to play out their plans], those who are pro-peace cannot afford to waste a second.”