Turk Kurd leader Ocalan meets lawyers for first time since 2011

Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan in 1993 giving a press conference on the Lebanon-Syria border. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 06 May 2019

Turk Kurd leader Ocalan meets lawyers for first time since 2011

  • This is the first meeting with the lawyers since 2011

ISTANBUL: The leader of Turkey’s militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, has met his lawyers for the first time in eight years, one of them said on Monday.

“This is the first meeting with the lawyers since 2011. The meeting lasted approximately one hour,” on May 2, Rezan Sarica told an Istanbul press conference.

Some 3,000 Kurdish prisoners have been holding hunger strikes since November to protest his isolation, and eight have killed themselves over the issue, according to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party.

Nevroz Uysal, another of Ocalan’s lawyers, said he was conveying a message from the imprisoned leader for the hunger strikers to limit their protests.

“We respect the resistance of our friends inside and outside prisons but want them not to carry this to a dimension that will threaten their health or result in death,” Uysal said. Turkey captured Ocalan, public enemy number one, in February 1999 and imprisoned him on the heavily fortified island of Imrali off Istanbul where he has been kept for 20 years.

“It is not yet clear if the meetings with lawyers will continue periodically,” added Sarica, who met Ocalan with Uysal.

“Only two lawyers were allowed to meet him although four lawyers applied,” he added.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies. The Kurdish insurgency in Turkey has claimed more than 40,000 lives since 1984.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hardened his rhetoric toward Kurdish rebels since the last cease-fire broke down in 2015, reducing the odds of a political solution to the long-running conflict.

Ocalan’s brother, Mehmet, was permitted to visit him in prison in January for the first time since 2016. The rebel leader was born into a poor peasant family in the village of Omerli in Turkey’s southeast. His official birthdate is April 4, 1949.

He was sentenced to death for treason after his capture by Turkish agents in Kenya, but this was commuted to life imprisonment when Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2002 at a time when it appeared close to securing membership of the European Union.


Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

Updated 19 October 2019

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

  • A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut
  • In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands

BEIRUT: Lebanese celebrities joined thousands of protesters on the streets of Beirut on Saturday to voice their anger at the country’s ruling elite.
Singers, actors and playwrights were among a host of high-profile artists who backed demands for action over government corruption and to counter Lebanon’s spiralling economic crisis.
Beirut has been shrouded in smoke for three days following widespread protests and rioting over government tax plans.
A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut and crying inconsolably about her financial state.
The actress, wearing jeans and her face blackened, told protesters: “I am Nadine Al-Rassi. I was hungry for seven days. I have debts. Banque du Liban (Lebanon’s central bank) seized my house and I am unable to rent a home. Corrupt people should be held responsible.”


In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands, saying: “This is the first time I wish I were in Lebanon. My heart is with you.”
In another tweet, the high-profile singer, one of the Middle East’s best-selling performers, said: “I proudly follow the news of Beirut and its citizens ... who are demanding a decent life. It is time for people to get back their dignity.”
Meanwhile, singer and composer Ragheb Alama expressed his dismay at a Council of Ministers plan to impose a daily fee on WhatsApp calls.
“The people’s misfortunes are not funny. Why don’t you tax the polluted air people breathe? It is a great idea that brings money to your fathers’ treasury, too,” he wrote.
Alama accused the Parliament of responsibility for the country’s dire economy: “Why do deputies receive money, privileges and overheads, and what have they done? They covered up for looting and stealing for decades. They are responsible for destroying the economy and the country.”
Nancy Ajram, one of the Arab world’s most popular singers, wrote on Twitter: “My heart goes out to my country every moment and with every heartbeat. We are a people who deserves to live and it is our right to live with dignity. May God protect Lebanon.”
Singer and actress Haifa Wehbe tweeted: “There is nothing better than the Lebanese people when they stand in unity and under one slogan, without any political affiliation. We are all for our country.”
Comedian and prime-time TV host Hisham Haddad was among celebrities who joined protesters at Riad El-Solh Square, near the Prime Minister’s office, site of the biggest centralized demonstrations.
Actress Maguy Bou Ghosn, singer Moeen Shreif, actors Abdo Chahine, Badih Abou Chakra and Junaid Zeineldine, playwright Ziad Itani and musician Ziyad Sahhab also joined the protests.
Actor Wissam Hanna called on Twitter for protesters to close the Beirut Airport road to stop corrupt officials fleeing the country.
“I am all for closing down the airport road to stop thieves from fleeing. I am all for recovering stolen funds. Lebanon rises, revolts and it is time to hold them accountable,” he wrote.
Actress Gretta Aoun said: “We have to take to the streets. They must know the extent of our pain.”