“A black page in history” is how Italian lawyer Mario Angelelli described the international conspiracy which resulted in the capture of Kurdistan workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan. “Humanity needs to protect this extraordinary person. Öcalan is the key to the achievement of peace between peoples,” he said.
During the visit of the International Delegation Against Isolation to Diyabakır (Amed), Istanbul, and Ankara, from 25 to 27 January, consisting of lawyers, journalists, and academics from seven different countries, one of the delegates, Italian lawyer Mario Antonio Angelelli, spoke to Mezopotamya Agency.
The conspiracy Angelelli was referring to began with the expulsion of the PKK leader from Syria on 9 October 1998, and ended when he surrendered to Turkey four months later on 15 February 1999, having travelled to various countries looking for somewhere to base himself.
When Öcalan travelled to Italy looking for refuge after his expulsion from Syria, lawyer Angelelli acted for him. The lawyer described the time as “a black page in [Italy’s] history”, and said that though the Italian people did not know Öcalan, his arrival had changed all that. They soon learned about the Kurdish question, recognised Öcalan as the representative of the Kurds, and pushed for him to be freed.
Turkey called for his extradition when Öcalan first arrived in Italy, but Italy initially held its ground because Öcalan had a right to asylum. Angelelli explained, however, that US and Israel pressurised Italy, by saying that Öcalan’s life was in a danger in there and that they would not be able to guarantee his safety, and “within 30 days the government’s attitude changed and they suggested that Öcalan go to another country”.
That Turkey put strong pressure on Italy was unsurprising. Turkey called Italy an enemy and applied a trade embargo. The pressure was also supported by the US, Israel and Germany. “It was a very well supported conspiracy,” said the lawyer, “He should never have left Italy. He should have been granted political asylum. Greece, Africa, Kenya… at that time Greece was not safe, because it did not have a good government.”
Ever since Öcalan was handed over to Turkey, he has been held in conditions of severe isolation. Angelelli said that European lawyers must continue to fight against the isolation, and that Öcalan must be able to exercise his human rights and participate in the Kurdish freedom and peace process. “Öcalan represents the Kurdish people and is the key to peace,” he said.
Angelelli compared Öcalan’s imprisonment to that of Nelson Mandela’s and said that the Kurdish leader must be freed and allowed to take part in the Turkish/Kurdish peace process. “Öcalan needs to be able to speak, to communicate, to convey messages, humanity needs to protect this extraordinary person,” he said.
Mario Antonio Angelelli is an Italian lawyer who met with Öcalan and acted for him in his asylum case in Italy. In 2019, he was among the signatories calling for the European Union (EU), Council of Europe (EC) organs and the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture to fulfil their duty in respect of Öcalan.