Turkey – Who Ordered the Killing of Sakine Cansiz?

By Harvey Morris  – RUDAW  – 30-1-2014 – LONDON – A year after the co-founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was found dead at the offices of the Kurdish Information Centre in Paris, alongside the bullet-riddled bodies of two other women activists, investigators appear no closer to identifying those behind the assassinations.

As French President Francois Hollande set off this week for an official visit to Turkey, Kurdish groups in France urged him to raise the case with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan following latest claims of the alleged involvement of Turkish intelligence agents. Police believe Ms. Cansiz, a comrade-in-arms of Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader jailed in Turkey, was the principle target of the execution-style triple killing on the night of January 9 last year.

The other victims – Fidan Dogan, Paris representative of the Kurdistan National Congress, and Leyla Söylemez, a youth leader – may have been killed merely because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The killings, which came at the height of negotiations on a peace settlement between the Turkish government and the PKK, sparked rival theories.

Turkish commentators speculated that they were the result of an internal split within the Kurdish rebel movement between supporters and opponents of the peace moves.

PKK activists, however, preferred to point a finger at dark forces within the Turkish state, such as nationalist elements of the security services opposed to a peace deal with Mr. Ocalan.

French investigators swiftly identified the sole suspect in the case, the alleged assassin Omer Guney. The 31-year-old, who acted as occasional driver and assistant to the Kurdish movement in Paris, took Ms. Cansiz to the Kurdish Information Centre on the night of the murders. He denies any role in the crime.

Mr. Guney appears to have had no connection to the Kurdish political movement until he moved from Germany to France in 2011. Indeed, former associates are reported as having described him as an anti-PKK Turkish nationalist during his time in Germany.

The plot thickened this month with the anonymous Internet posting of a taped conversation purporting to be between Mr. Guney and two agents of the Turkish national intelligence agency, MIT, as they arranged details of the hit. The unverified recording, coupled with an alleged internal MIT document published in the Turkish press, would support the theory that elements of the agency were involved in ordering the killings.

The MIT responded with a swift denial, but also with the promise of an internal investigation. A statement from the agency suggested the online tape, released anonymously on YouTube, was part of a plot to discredit the MIT because of its central role in pushing forward the peace process.

Last year’s Paris killings came barely days after Mr. Erdogan confirmed that Turkish intelligence agents had met Mr. Ocalan in his jail cell as part of a peace process to end the three-decade conflict with the PKK. Hakan Fidan, the MIT boss, is one of Mr. Erdogan’s closest advisers and was delegated by the prime minister to lead the negotiations with Mr. Ocalan.

If the murders were intended to derail the peace process, the operation failed.

Progress has nevertheless faltered in the past year, as Mr. Erdogan focused on street protests against his autocratic style, ongoing corruption scandals, and a long-distance power struggle with Fethullah Gulen, the influential U.S.-based Turkish Muslim scholar. Members of the religious conservative Gulen movement have expressed skepticism about the peace process and criticism of MIT’s role in it. PKK sympathizers who rallied in Paris on the first anniversary of the triple murder called on Mr. Hollande to demand answers from the Turkish government during this week’s visit in the hope of shedding light on the murky affair.

That reflected a perception among Kurds that Turkish officials have yet to tell French investigators everything they know about Mr. Guney and three trips he made to Turkey before the killings.

French judicial authorities, for their part, have denied dragging their feet in the investigation because of political sensitivities involving France and Turkey.

Among the outstanding questions raised in the case: who released the online tape and is it genuine? Or was it fabricated in a bid to discredit the MIT, and perhaps even Mr. Erdogan, ahead of the Hollande visit?

Pending new evidence, investigators are reported to be keeping an open mind about those ultimately responsible for an attack that shocked the Kurdish community in France and beyond.

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