Turkey’s new intel bill lays legal ground for talks with PKK


ANKARA – Hurriyet – 24.2.2014 – A government-led bill envisioning increased powers and immunities for Turkey’s national intelligence body also brings in an arrangement that would provide a legal framework for the ongoing talks between intelligence officers and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“In situations that the country’s security and national interest require, the MİT [the National Intelligence Organization] will be able to directly contact all kinds of local and foreign institutions and agencies, and with all organizations or formations and persons; will be able to implement appropriate coordination methods; and will be able to collect data related to foreign intelligence, national defense, terrorism, international crimes and cyber security that passes through telecommunication channels,” says the related article of the bill.  

Parliament’s Internal Affairs Commission resumed debates on the bill over the weekend and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) expects that it will reach the General Assembly floor this week.In December 2012, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made public that intelligence agents were meeting with jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, thus exposing a “resolution process” aimed at peacefully ending the three-decade long conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the PKK. Responding to criticism by opposition lawmakers during debates at the Commission late on Feb. 22, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay touched upon the process.

“What is appropriate is contact by the state institutions, but responsibility belongs to politics, not to the MİT undersecretary. He goes and has meetings, he may also go to İmralı for meetings, but the responsibility belongs to the government,” Atalay said, referring to İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara, where Öcalan is serving a life sentence.

“When the prosecutor’s office called the MİT undersecretary, the prime minister said: ‘It’s my responsibility, I gave him the order,’” he added. Atalay, who is actively involved in the peace process, was referring to a crisis that erupted in February 2012 after a specially authorized prosecutor summoned MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan and four other MİT officials to testify in the ongoing investigation into the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the PKK, on the grounds that some MİT members who infiltrated the KCK had exceeded their authority in their duties.

Fidan had attended talks between MİT officials and representatives of the outlawed PKK at a time when he was a special adviser to Erdoğan. The talks were held abroad between 2009 and 2011 in a series of meetings publicly known as the “Oslo talks.” The talks collapsed after a PKK attack killed 13 soldiers near Diyarbakır in July 2011.

At the time of the investigation, Erdoğan claimed that he himself was in fact the target. Parliament then passed a hastily drafted bill, which required the prime minister’s permission to investigate any MİT official or any individual assigned special duties by the prime minister, in order to protect top intelligence officials from judicial probes.  Many pundits at the time suggested the incident was the result of a power struggle in the bureaucracy and the judiciary between the movement of reclusive Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and supporters of the prime minister. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-new-intel-bill-lays-legal-ground-for-talks-with-pkk.aspx?pageID=238&nID=62813&NewsCatID=338