World Bulletin / News Desk
Militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on Tuesday freed Turkish opposition lawmaker Hüseyin Aygün whose surprise abduction over the weekend in the southeast province of Tunceli caused outrage in the country and fears of an escalating campaign of kidnapping and violence.
The main opposition CHP's Aygün was kidnapped by PKK militants who set up a roadblock in Tunceli on Sunday. The PKK announced on Tuesday that they would release Aygün shortly.
Aygün's relatives said the politician was with military police after the militants brought him through the mountains to within sight of a village, and left him to walk there himself.
Aygün was released close to a Aşağı Torunoba police post, some 6-7 km away from where he was kidnapped Sunday night. In the police post, Tunceli prosecutor phoned Aygün and asked if he wants to inform him about the abduction. He refused to testify about the details of his kidnapping and said he would later inform the security forces about the details.
Tunceli governor's office offered a helicopter to take him to central Tunceli from the village where he was kidnapped but the CHP deputy refused the offer. The helicopter was pursuing the car of Aygün from the air.
Aygün told a news conference in Tunceli later on Tuesday that his captors said they kidnapped him for “political propaganda.” He added that he didn’t receive any threats and that the captors were respectful to him.
Aygün said his captors asked him to do politics without any party affilitation but he replied that this could not be possible “under the shadow of guns,” referring to pro-Kurdish politicians many argue largely influenced by the terrorist organization.
Aygün said the incident was not aimed at his security and that “it was targeted to send a message to Turkish people.” He added that those who captured him were a group of young people and that he sensed most of them wanted to return home.
While the militants have previously kidnapped soldiers, local politicians and tourists, this is the first time they have kidnapped a lawmaker. Most hostages have been released without harm.
The militants are fighting for autonomy in the Kurdish-dominated southeast region and maintain bases in northern Iraq from where they launch hit-and-run attacks on Turkish targets. The group is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
Aygün was elected to the Parliament to represent Tunceli, where he worked as a lawyer for 14 years. According to his website, his work focuses on human rights abuses, such as the forcible evacuations of Kurdish villages to deny support to the militants in rural areas, as well as torture cases.
Security sources said about 200 specially trained soldiers were in the area in an effort to rescue Aygün.
"This operation is placing Hüseyin Aygün's life in danger. The CHP and the public must be aware of this, and operations must be halted," a PKK statement said, according to pro-PKK Fırat news agency.
The kidnapping came days after the government claimed troops have killed as many as 115 militants in the southeastern town of Şemdinli, and after Aygün's party called for an extraordinary meeting in Parliament on Tuesday to discuss the struggle against the militants.