Jailed Kurdish rebel chief demands Paris murders solved soon

ISTANBUL Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:42am GMT

Related Topics

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan called on French police to solve the murders of three Kurdish activists quickly, his brother said, but he gave no indication their killing would disrupt nascent peace talks between him and Turkish officials.

The three Kurdish women, one a co-founder of Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, were found dead in Paris on Thursday in execution-style killings regarded by many as an attempt to sabotage the fledgling peace moves.

Ocalan's younger brother Mehmet, who visited him in his jail on the island of Imrali near Istanbul on Monday, said the PKK leader did not comment on the peace process but may make a statement later if Kurdish political party leaders visit him.

The dialogue, which media reports say yielded a framework for full negotiations, began after Ocalan called on hundreds of PKK inmates to end a hunger strike last November. His brother Mehmet had conveyed that appeal after a previous visit.

"He was very saddened by the massacre in France. He condemns it," Mehmet Ocalan told reporters on his return from Imrali late on Monday. "They must solve this massacre right away."

"This massacre was a sign. Hence he was very downcast. He sent his condolences to the families of the three Kurdish women who were killed," he said, without clarifying what the sign was.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said initial evidence suggested an internal feud in the PKK or a bid to derail the peace talks may have motivated the killings. The PKK blamed shadowy elements within the Turkish state or foreign powers.

French investigators have given no indication as to who might be responsible for the deaths.

Turkey disclosed in the New Year it had begun discussing with Ocalan how to end a conflict in which more than 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984 with the aim of carving out a Kurdish homeland in Turkey's southeast.

Ocalan was long held in virtual isolation after his capture in 1999. Access to him remains tightly controlled and his lawyers have not seen him for 16 months.

Kurdish politicians have demanded improvements in his jail conditions. Erdogan said last week that such changes would be limited but that he would be given a television.

Asked about those reports, Mehmet said his brother had not requested a television. "It was not his own demand. The prison governor convinced him and that's why he accepted," he said.

One of the three women killed in Paris was Sakine Cansiz, a founding PKK member well-known to Kurdish nationalists and believed to be an important PKK financier in Europe. PKK fighters are based mainly in northern Iraq.

Turkey, the United States and European Union designate the PKK a terrorist organisation.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jon Boyle)

FILED UNDER: