Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of the Labour Party and opposition in the United Kingdom between 2015 and 2020, and Paul Gavan, MP for Sinn Fein in Ireland, were among the European MPs and senators who joined on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, in the vigil for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Corbyn and Gavan spoke to Erem Kansoy of Medya Haber.
“The reality is, to bring about a long term political settlement in Turkey which respects the rights of all languages and all ethnic groups, you have to speak to people who are the identified leaders of communities, and the continued imprisonment of Öcalan is not a step towards peace. It’s a step away. And therefore, I join with Paul and many others in calling for his release so he can be part of the political process in Turkey.”
Asked about whether the European institutions have the will and ability to help solve the problems related both to the severe isolation imposed upon Öcalan and the criminalisation of Kurds over their struggle for freedom and rights, Corbyn said.
“The European institutions certainly have the powers and the ability to make a great influence on these situations. Imprisonment without trial, isolation, not having communication with your legal representatives, not having communication with your families, not having access to independent medical support, all of those five things are contrary to European convention on human rights. So even if people don’t agree with Öcalan, and there are many who do, and many who don’t, those basic principles have not been followed. So my call is that they should follow these principles on which the European convention on human rights was established, and the Council of Europe has been established. This is a breach of his human rights and any human rights that has been breached is actually a breach of our all human rights.”
“What’s happening to Abdullah Öcalan is just shocking. I attended a meeting yesterday and to hear what the man’s been through, let’s not forget that he was kidnapped, kidnapped in Kenya, the prison was built for him, and he’s been locked away at it since mostly in isolation, and a journalist has said, we don’t even know how he is right now (…) This is a situation that nobody who believes in European convention on human rights could possibly accept.”
“I can assure you that when I return to Ireland, I’ll be raising the issue in the parliament, also raising it with my commrades within Sinn Fein (…) My job when I get home, is to raise the issue directly with the minister of foreign affairs, and impose on him the importance that while Ireland has the presidency of the Committe of Ministers, which we do until November, that we need to see action from Ireland in relation to demanding justice for Mr. Öcalan.”
He stressed that Öcalan’s freedom was of utmost importance for progress in the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question.
“We in Ireland know that to move from conflict to peace, you need dialogue. You need negotiation. And that is the only way forward, and Abdullah Öcalan is the key to dialogue and negotiation. We cannot make progress until we see freedom for Öcalan.”