Allowing Öcalan to meet his lawyers not related to Istanbul rerun - Justice Minister

Allowing Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), has nothing to do neither with a potential peace process in Turkey nor Istanbul election rerun on June 23, Turkish Minister of Justice said on Friday.

Minister Abdülhamit Gül during an iftar meal on Thursday answered the questions of reporters on the new judiciary reform to be announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 30, Anadolu Agency reported. 

The reform strategy, which is prepared taking into account surveys conducted across Turkey, will be a roadmap for democracy, following the coup attempt in 2016 and the two-year emergency rule declared afterwards, the minister said. 

The ministry is also working on possible changes in the anti-terror law that will not weaken Turkey’s struggle against terrorism, Gül said. The European Union demands Turkey to change its anti-terror law saying it significantly restricts basic freedoms and rights. 

This month the AKP government ended an eight-year ban, allowing Öcalan to meet with his lawyers on the island prison. Gül last week announced that the meeting restrictions on Öcalan had been lifted and the possibility of further visits was on the table. 

Gül on Thursday said that Öcalan’s lawyers met the PKK leader in İmralı prison also on Wednesday, adding that such visits will continue in accordance with the law. 

“This has nothing to do with peace process. One cannot interpret it as ‘a new peace process is beginning’. It has nothing to do with Istanbul elections,” the minister said.

Some commentators in Turkey said that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) allowed Öcalan to meet his lawyers in an effort to gain the support of Kurdish voters in Istanbul.

While the Turkish authorities see Öcalan as the leader of a separatist terrorist organisation, for many Kurds, he is the symbolic leader of a political movement that spans predominantly Kurdish areas in Turkey and three neighbouring countries.

After tens of thousands of casualties from both parties and huge economic loss in the region for decades, Erdoğan, the Prime Minister at the time, initiated a process of talks between Turkey’s intelligence service and the PKK leadership in 2009.

The talks failed in July 2015 as relations between the two sides came under pressure due to the Syrian conflict and domestic politics. An intensified conflict ensued, causing hundreds of civilian deaths, forced migrations and the demolition of town centres in southeast Turkey.