Dec 16 2017

I met PKK leaders at government’s request, opposition MP says

A Turkish member of parliament charged with making propaganda for a terrorist organisation told a court hearing he had met leaders of the armed separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) at the request of the government, the Kurdish news agency Mezopotamya said.

Sırrı Süreyye Önder, a deputy from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is on trial alongside the party’s co-leader, Selahattin Demirtaş.

Jailed on remand since November of 2016, Demirtaş did not participate in the Istanbul hearing in protest at a court order that he testify via video link due to costs and security concerns. Önder is free on bail.

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is escorted by Turkish gendarmerie as he arrives to the hospital for medical check on December 15, 2016, in northwestern Edirne province where he is imprisoned since early November. AFP PHOTO / DOGAN NEWS AGENCY / STR
File: Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is escorted by Turkish gendarmerie as he arrives to the hospital in Edirne where he is imprisoned since early Nov 2016. Dec 15, 2016. AFP / DOGAN NEWS / STR

Önder’s lawyers also demanded the charges be dropped as they said their client enjoyed parliamentary immunity, Mezopotamya said. Parliament voted in May 2016 to lift the immunities of deputies who had criminal investigations pending, most of them were HDP members.

Önder said he travelled to the remote Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq, where the PKK has its headquarters, in March 2013. A ceasefire between Turkey and the armed group began at that time. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Until the ceasefire broke down in July 2015, the Turkish government had been involved in years of secret talks with the PKK to try to find ways to end the conflict that has cost tens of thousands of lives since it began in 1984.