Turkish police on Monday detained 51 people in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır who had gathered to call for the end of prison restrictions on Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Artı Gerçek news website reported.
The protestors, who included politicians from Kurdish groups and the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party (YSP), wanted to make a press statement on the 25th anniversary of the expulsion of Öcalan from Syria, which they described as an “international conspiracy.”
They were not allowed to issue the statement by the police, who cited a ban on demonstrations imposed by the Diyarbakır Governor’s Office.
YSP lawmakers who wanted to leave the area encountered a police blockade.
Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan had been based in Syria from 1979 to 1998. Four months after his expulsion from the country on Oct. 9, 1998, he was arrested by Turkish security forces in Nairobi, Kenya, in February 1999, and was brought to Turkey. He has been serving an aggravated life sentence in a prison on İmralı Island on the Sea of Marmara since 1999.
YSP lawmaker Ömer Öcalan said the Turkish government should remove the prison restrictions on Öcalan and that the government must speak to the PKK leader for settlement of the Kurdish issue.
The Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.
Öcalan has been unable to see his lawyers and family members for several years. According to the pro-Kurdish Poeples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Öcalan has been unable to meet with his lawyers since 2019 and that his lawyers’ attempts to secure permission from Turkish authorities to visit him have been rejected without any legal basis for years.
Ömer Öcalan said the government sent its representatives to Öcalan during a settlement process launched in 2009 aiming to resolve the Kurdish issue and that the government knows full and well that a solution lies with Öcalan.
The Turkish government held direct talks with Öcalan and the PKK as part of a peace process initiated in 2009, in a bid to end the country’s Kurdish conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives. The talks collapsed in 2015. The PKK, which has been waging an armed conflict against the Turkish state since 1984, is designated as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community.