Jailed Kurdish militant leader to meet brother after killings

AFP , Monday 14 Jan 2013

The meeting signals Turkey's willingness to negotiate with the Kurdish leader to end a conflict that has killed tens of thousands over three decades

Jailed Kurdish militant chief Abdullah Ocalan was to be visited by his brother in prison on Monday after the killing of three Kurdish activists in Paris cast a shadow over nascent peace talks he is conducting with Turkish authorities.

The dialogue, which Turkish media reports say have yielded a framework for full negotiations, began after Ocalan called on hundreds of PKK inmates to end a hunger strike last November, an appeal issued through his brother.

Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebel group, was long held in virtual isolation after his capture in 1999. Access to him remains tightly controlled and even his lawyers have not seen him for 16 months.

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.

His brother, Mehmet Ocalan, set off by boat for the island of Imrali from the port of Gemlik in northwest Turkey early on Monday, the state-run Anatolian news agency said. Turkish authorities last permitted Mehmet Ocalan to pay a visit to his brother in prison in November.

The latest trip comes after three Kurdish women, one a co-founder of the PKK, were found dead in Paris on Thursday in execution-style killings regarded by many as an attempt to sabotage the fledgling peace moves.

The Paris killings triggered feverish speculation about who was behind them and there will be major interest in Ocalan's views on the murders.

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.

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.

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