NEW VISIT TO ÖCALAN 24th OF JUNE : Turkish government, Kurds in intense talks over legal steps

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News – 21.6.2013 –  A Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) delegation has met with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin.

The co-chairs of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Selahattin Demirtaş and Gültan Kışanak, accompanied by their deputy group chairs, Pervin Buldan and İdris Baluken, held a meeting with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin and Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay late on June 19 to discuss the course of the peace process, upon the BDP’s demand to accelerate efforts on the legal reform package.

“We have conveyed our concerns, expectations and demands. They told us that they would give their response after consultations with the prime minister,” Demir Çelik, the BDP’s Muş deputy, told reporters. The BDP handed over a 25-article draft democratization package on which the Justice Ministry is still working. Atalay, on the other hand, argued that the Gezi Park incidents had been provoked to stop the peace process.

Since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said they were working on a package and yet were not able to finish evaluating the previous proposal of the BDP, the negotiations are left to next week, after the AKP discusses the matter at its Cabinet meeting. The AKP urged creating a common delegation with the participation of the BDP so as to collectivize the proposals.

Çelik once more voiced the BDP’s demand for Parliament to continue working on the legislation package as a “token of will,” instead of taking a 3-month break, saying “Education in mother tongue, freedom of religion, belief and conscience alongside regulations on private life must definitely be done.” Çelik added that since upon the opening of Parliament election time will have arrived, legal reforms will not be carried through. The fact that the members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have withdrawn does not mean that they will not return ever, he said.

Periodical visits to Öcalan

Çelik also announced that based on his party’s last visit to İmralı, meetings every 15 days were scheduled and the decision of who would visit would be left to the BDP and the Kurdish umbrella organization, Democratic Society Congress (DTK), making it not just Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s prerogative any longer. According to Çelik, it is likely a delegation could visit İmralı by June 24. Demirtaş has come together with the Wise Persons’ Commission, where he suggested they meet with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, while the delegation of wise persons remained silent on the issue.

Among the BDP’s demands were granting Öcalan, serving life sentence in İmralı island, the opportunity to meet his lawyers, leaders of civil society organizations and wise persons, alongside amending the Anti-Terror Law (TMK), the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK), and removing the election threshold prior to Parliament’s recess. Additionally, long detention periods must be eliminated, according to the BDP. The BDP also criticized the monetary penalties given to families who lost their relatives in the Roboski incident and urged for action, while adding that the rhetoric of the government must change, as Erdoğan continues to refer to Öcalan as “the leader of terrorists, the leader of separatists.”