Kurd rebels end hunger strike; deal hopes grow

Updated 19 November 2012
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Kurd rebels end hunger strike; deal hopes grow

ISTANBUL: Hundreds of Kurdish militants ended a hunger strike in jails across Turkey yesterday in response to an appeal from their leader, fueling hopes a deal had been struck that could revive talks to end a decades-old conflict.
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan called on his supporters to end their protest after holding a series of discussions with Turkish MIT intelligence agency officials, according to one media report.
Top MIT officials have held secret meetings with senior PKK representatives in Oslo in recent years and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in September more talks were possible.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in 28 years of fighting between Turkey and the PKK — designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.
Ocalan’s call for an end to the hunger strike, which militants staged to demand an end to his isolation in an island prison south of Istanbul, was announced by his brother on Saturday.
“On the basis of our leader’s call ... we end our protest as of November 18, 2012,” Deniz Kaya, a spokesman for the jailed PKK militants, was quoted as saying in a statement by an association representing the inmates’ families.
The announcement was welcomed by the government, which had been increasingly worried any deaths during the hunger strike might provoke more violence.
“I hope we will not face such protests from now on. Turkey is a democratic country,” Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc was quoted as telling reporters by state-run Anatolian news agency.
“Whatever demands the people have, the government and politicians can air them in parliament,” he added.
A newspaper said on Sunday talks between Ocalan and Turkish intelligence officials over the last two months had paved the way for his appeal to end the protest, which lasted 68 days.
“A delegation went to Imrali on three occasions. A senior MIT official joined one of these visits and Ocalan’s intervention was sought to end the hunger strike,” the liberal daily Radikal said. It did not identify its sources.
Fighting between the PKK and Turkish forces surged over the summer. Ankara has linked the renewed hostilities to the conflict in neighboring Syria and accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of arming the PKK.


Turkey’s jailed pro-Kurdish candidate in first TV appearance for 20 months

Updated 17 June 2018
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Turkey’s jailed pro-Kurdish candidate in first TV appearance for 20 months

  • Selahattin Demirtas, who has been in detention for close to 20 months on security charges and faces a sentence of up to 142 years if convicted
  • One of Turkey’s best-known politicians, he has had to run his campaign mostly through social media

ANKARA: The jailed presidential candidate for Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition made his first television appearance in over a year and a half on Sunday, giving a campaign speech ahead of next week’s elections.
Selahattin Demirtas, who has been in detention for close to 20 months on security charges and faces a sentence of up to 142 years if convicted, was nominated by his Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as a candidate last month.
One of Turkey’s best-known politicians, he has had to run his campaign mostly through social media from his prison cell in the northwestern city of Edirne, while Turkish media have been saturated with coverage of President Tayyip Erdogan and his ministers.
Speaking on state broadcaster TRT in a scheduled 10-minute address, to which he is entitled under election law, Demirtas said voting for Erdogan and his ruling AK Party would mean putting the fate of the country “between one man’s two lips.”
“The only reason I am still here is that the AKP is scared of me. They think tying my hands here and going from square to square spreading accusations about me is being courageous,” a visibly thinner Demirtas said.
“They are openly violating the constitution by declaring me guilty even though there is no conviction ruling against me, and are trying to direct the public by misinforming them,” he said.
The snap parliamentary and presidential elections on Sunday will herald the switch to the new powerful executive presidency narrowly approved in a referendum last year.
In previous elections, Demirtas won votes beyond his core Kurdish constituency, and is likely to draw significant backing in the first round of the presidential vote, while boosting the prospects of his party entering parliament.
Demirtas’s HDP arranged a viewing of his speech in Istanbul’s Bakirkoy Square, where hundreds of supporters gathered to watch.
“You should have no doubt that I will be acquitted in front of the law as soon as possible. So long as the judicial authorities follow the superiority of the law and not the government’s expectations,” Demirtas said, as supporters cheered and waved flags.