For immediate release
29 November 2012
A successful meeting was held on Tuesday 27 November in Portcullis House, Westminster, hosted by Hywel Williams MP and attended by Mary Glindon MP, Pat Doherty MP, and Lord Rea. A considerable number of MPs also sent messages of support.
The meeting was addressed by human rights lawyer Margaret Owen OBE and barristers Bronwen Jones and Melanie Gingell, who all recently observed a hearing of the ongoing KCK trial in which 47 lawyers, many of whom had represented leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, are being tried for terrorism offences. Representatives of the International Bar Association and Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers were also present.
The delegates informed MPs that the trial is highly political in nature. They also identified major issues that potentially breach international law, including the use of wiretapping of privileged client-lawyer conversations as evidence and the denial of bail without reason.
“The hunger strike is over, but the Kurdish question still remains unresolved. There can be no lasting resolution of the conflict until the just demands of the Kurdish political prisoners are met,” Margaret Owen stated.
“It is impossible to predict even the immediate future in the region, given its present political instability. However, I like to think that we are now seeing a glimmer of hope. PM Erdogan has been forced to realise that most Kurds look to Ocalan as their leader. Without his participation in negotiations, there can be no peace. Each of the KCK trials have exposed the grave limitations of the Turkish justice system. At last the international community is becoming aware of Turkey’s gross violations of human rights,” she continued.
The meeting also discussed the recent hunger strike of hundreds of Kurdish political prisoners, which ended after 67 days with a call from Ocalan. One major demand of the hunger strike was for the Turkish government to allow the mother tongue to be used in court. This has long been called for by Kurdish defendants in court and has halted proceedings many KCK trials. The Turkish government lifted this ban, seemingly in response to the hunger strikes, but with a series of conditions that the delegates and MPs present regarded as severely limiting.
Barry White, member of the European Federation of Journalists, also spoke of his recent observation of trials of journalists in Turkey. 44 journalists are on trial in another KCK case, most of whom have also been held in detention without bail since their arrest 11 months ago.
Also present was Urko Aiartza Azurtza, senator for Gizpuzkoa, who likened the criminalisation of the Kurds in Turkey to the situation facing Basque political prisoners in Spain. Representatives of the Kurdish community as well as from the International Bar Association and the Haldane Society of Socialist lawyers were also present.
The meeting proposed to ensure another delegation is sent to observe the next hearings of both the journalists and the lawyers, on the 27 December and 3 January respectively, to ensure all political prisoners are supported in Turkey and awareness is raised in the UK of how criminalisation of large segments of Kurdish civil society is serving to prolong the conflict.
It was also decided to issue a statement to Prime Minister Erdogan and Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin to voice concerns raised during the meeting.
For further information, contact:
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 7890
Fax: 020 7263 0596