Turkey allows new lawyer visit to Kurd rebel chief Ocalan

AFP , Wednesday 22 May 2019

Abdullah Ocalan
File photo: A man holds a flag with a picture of imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan during a gathering to celebrate Newroz, which marks the arrival of spring and the new year, in Istanbul, Turkey March 21, 2018. (Reuters)

Turkish authorities allowed imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan to see his lawyers on Wednesday for the first time since lifting a ban on such meetings last week.

Ocalan, held on Imrali island near Istanbul, saw his lawyers on May 2 for the first time since 2011 -- and the government announced shortly after that it would lift the ban on future visits.

A co-founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, Ocalan remains a key figure for Kurdish separatists in Turkey and in the region.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

Lawyers Nevroz Uysal and Rezan Sarica were on their way to the prison island in the Marmara Sea, another of Ocalan's legal representatives told AFP on Wednesday.

After the first visit, Ocalan sent a message through the lawyers to say that hundreds of hunger strikers protesting his prison conditions should limit their actions.

He appeared to offer another olive branch to the Turkish government, calling on Kurdish forces in Syria to respect "Turkey's sensitivities" in the region.

The lifting of the ban also comes as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks to win a re-run of the Istanbul mayoral vote on June 23.

Analysts say a large number of Kurds voted for the opposition candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, who won the vote on March 31 but was later stripped of the victory over claims of "irregularities".

The main pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) chose not to present a candidate in the country's biggest city and instead encouraged support for Imamoglu.

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