Top General's remarks create political row in Turkey

Remarks by Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt, stating that he believes PKK is "in Parliament," have been a source of legal and political controversy.

Top General's remarks create political row in Turkey
Remarks made by Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt, stating that he believes the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is "in Parliament," have been a source of legal and political controversy from the moment they were first uttered on Wednesday.

Following Büyükanıt's comments, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat noted sarcastically, at a reception held by the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD) on Wednesday evening, that "the PKK might be anywhere, but I haven't really seen it in the Parliament building." Speaking to journalists at a meeting in Ankara yesterday, opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli criticized Fırat for failing to "see the PKK anywhere … neither in Parliament nor in the mountains and valleys."

Yet Bahçeli was also cautious when commenting on Büyükanıt's assertion that the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) and the PKK were no different, saying the verdict from an ongoing closure case against the DTP should be awaited first. "We do see people who had relations with the PKK in the past sitting to our left in Parliament. That's clear," he said.

The DTP deputies' rows are located next to those of the MHP, a seating plan which many had feared might cause tension.

Pressed to say whether the terrorist group was in Parliament, Bahçeli went on to say: "One has to be cautious in such a process. There is no problem if they are acquitted in court. But if the judiciary also rules to that effect, that means the PKK is in Parliament."

Also attending the TÜSİAD reception on Wednesday, head of the DTP parliamentary group Ahmet Türk responded to Büyükanıt's statements, saying: "We have been voted into Parliament with the votes of the people. We believe that Parliament is the place to solve all problems."

Evaluating Büyükanıt's words, he said: "Our coming into Parliament is actually about making a contribution that would relieve tension in Turkey. We are people who believe in peace, democracy and the integrity of Parliament." Türk said this was the mentality the DTP used to conduct its work. "We would never assume an approach that would bring Turkey into tension. Everybody else should show that sensibility as well."

Asked what he thought of the top commander viewing the DTP as a politicized form of the PKK in the process of being legalized, Türk said such a question would be better put to Büyükanıt himself, as the original comment had been made by him. "Do you really support the PKK?" one journalist asked, to which Türk replied, "We are members of Parliament and we are conducting politics for our people." He also asked media members to bear this point in mind when asking him questions.

MHP deputies and Bahçeli on terrorism

Bahçeli also expressed the opinion that the prime minister and the chief of General Staff were contradicting each other. Bahçeli called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Gen. Büyükanıt to make a joint statement on the issue. "This way, it would be more clearly understood what points the military and the government have differences of opinion on and what points their opinions are united," he said.

He said that it was up to the judiciary eventually to decide whether the PKK is in Parliament or not, referring to an ongoing legal process where a prosecutor is seeking to shut down the DTP, accused of having ties to the PKK terrorist group.

However, other MHP deputies had different comments. Osman Durmuş, a MHP deputy from Kırıkkale, said as a politician he simply could not accept the statement that the PKK was becoming legalized. "These words show that he [Büyükanıt] has failed. I can't really accept it; Mr. Büyükanıt should resign." Mehmet Ekici, the deputy chairman of the party, also agreed, "When he said it had become legalized, he legalized terrorism himself."

Erdel Sipahi, an İzmir deputy from the MHP, however, agreed with the top general. "The legitimization of the PKK has been pronounced at the top level. The government should learn its lesson. It should understand the mistake it has made." However, he also added that those who should be fighting should not be talking. MHP Bursa deputy Necati Özensoy noted, "If those who have to fight talk and if those who need to talk keep silent, this problem will never be solved."

Speaking to the press about calls for Büyükanıt's resignation made by his party's deputies, MHP leader Bahçeli later described such calls as "unnecessary."

Legal controversy

Lawyers and jurists note that Büyükanıt's words might have legal implications as the DTP is currently facing a legal suit and risks closure.

Mithat Sencer from Ankara University stated that the chief of General Staff "obviously" did not have the authority to make statements concerning these issues, saying: "It is unconstitutional that he can speak so harshly on a topic that directly concerns Parliament. Secondly, there is a legal process about to begin." Sencer also said the possibility of Büyükanıt's statements influencing the trial process should be born in mind.

Sencer added that the general's words had implications for voters. "Such a statement made without being based on any evidence also affects those who voted for the party," he said, adding that the general would be expected to note these legal considerations when making a statement on such a sensitive issue.

Gazi University's Levent Köker also made the same point. "Those being referred to here are actually the people who voted for the DTP. It makes one think whether those voters are PKK members. This was not a good statement. It means there is a 'vote for the PKK in Parliament'. This statement by itself politicizes the PKK." He also said that the Constitutional Court, which is currently reviewing the DTP's closure case, will be more reserved after the statement. "I believe it will influence [the court's decision]. There is strong evidence from the past that it (the court) is influenced strongly [by army statements]."

Ahmet İnsel from Galatasaray University said Büyükanıt's words should absolutely be interpreted as an intervention in the judiciary.

Büyükanıt: Terrorism is being legalized

In remarks made on Tuesday, Chief of General Staff Gen. Büyükanıt expressed the opinion that terrorism had not only become politicized but also legalized in Turkey. He was speaking at a conference at the Strategic Research and Study Center (SAREM) of the Turkish General Staff.

In a keynote speech delivered at the beginning of the symposium, Gen. Büyükanıt said, "The basis of combating terrorism is to eliminate the hope of the terrorist organization to succeed."

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Aralık 2007, 14:25