🔴 Wednesday marks the 25th anniversary of #PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's abduction from #Kenya to Turkey. Erem Kansoy (@eremkansoy) from #MedyaHaber TV went to Nairobi and spoke with Willi Mutunga (@WMutunga), Kenya's former Justice Chief. #Ocalanhttps://t.co/Q86D1InDzd pic.twitter.com/UbegRhJfqK
— MedyaNews (@1MedyaNews) February 14, 2023
The former President of Kenya played a role in the 1999 CIA-assisted abduction of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, Kenya’s former Justice Chief and President of the Supreme Court, Willi Mutunga, told Medya Haber TV.
Wednesday marks the 25th anniversary of the PKK Leader’s abduction from Kenya to Turkey. As the commemoration approaches, described by Kurds and rights defenders as the “international conspiracy day”, Erem Kansoy from Medya Haber TV went to Nairobi and spoke with Mutunga.
An activist in the Kenya Human Rights Commission at the time of Öcalan’s abduction, Mutunga told Kansoy that not only does he believe there was a conspiracy at play, but also that the former Kenyan president was involved. “There was a rumour that I remember very clearly: the Kenyan president of the time was paid to be a part of this conspiracy,” Mutunga said.
In the 1990s there was widespread and intense politically-motivated ethnic violence prevalent in Kenya. However, the democratic freedom movement grew, with mass demonstrations and legal challenges that forced the government to implement several reforms. In 1999, when Öcalan was abducted, the country was on the verge of a democratic transformation against the repressive government that had been in power for more than 20 years.
“It was a mistake to come to a country where Öcalan’s movement and leadership had so many enemies,” Mutunga said, pointing to the political environment in the country at the time.
“If you really want to understand what exactly happened to that great freedom fighter [Öcalan], then you should look at the intelligence services on the Kenya part of the case,” he added. “Kenyan intelligence was working arm in arm with the CIA, FBI, MI6 and even MOSSAD. There is no doubt about it!”
Mutunga explained that Öcalan’s abduction was met with a backlash from Kenyans, adding that Öcalan is still spoken about in the country today and that even the Kenyan youth discuss Öcalan.
“Öcalan’s struggle should not be separated from the struggle in this country. As Kenyans, we feel great shame because our state did not support Öcalan at that time. As the South Africans said when Mandela was in captivity: Öcalan should be free,” he said.
Öcalan was forced to leave Syria on 9 October 1998 after Turkey amassed troops at the Syrian border, threatening the country with an invasion unless it deported the PKK leader. Four months later, on 15 February 1999, he was captured in Kenya after seeking asylum in several European countries.
The Kenyan government denied involvement in a plot to abduct Öcalan, but Turkish newspapers close to the military reported that the Kenyan secret service helped Turkish intelligence divert a car carrying the Kurdish leader away from the Greek embassy in Nairobi.
Öcalan himself had previously recalled that after 15 days in the Greek embassy he was pressured to take a gun and forced to leave by Kenyan police. Öcalan refused to take the weapon, but was told later that if he had accepted he would have been killed on the way to the airport.
Öcalan was sentenced to death in Turkey on 29 June 1999, but his sentence was reverted to life imprisonment without parole when the death penalty was abolished in the country in 2002. He has been held in İmralı Island Prison ever since, and in absolute isolation for the last two years.
Kurdish groups have consistently protested Öcalan’s imprisonment and isolation with rallies organised in Turkey and abroad. A march to İmralı planned for February was postponed due to the earthquake that hit 10 predominantly Kurdish-populated cities in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria.