‘We would have hung Öcalan’: Erdogan

The prime minster has angrily responded to claims that his ruling party is negotiating with the main pro-Kurdish party over the release of imprisoned terrorist Abdullah Öcalan. If they had been in power when the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, chief was captured in 1999, he said, Öcalan would have been hung, or they would have quit the coalition government.

“These slanders are being made by MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] leader Devlet Bahçeli,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Thursday in an interview with Kral FM, referring to the negotiations claims.

“I replied to his assertions the other day. I say it again, I give this promise once again,” Erdoğan said, vowing to keep Öcalan locked up on İmralı Island where he is serving a life sentence.

Öcalan was arrested in Kenya in 1999 by American intelligence and was handed to Turkey on the condition that he not be hanged. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002, but the MHP, which was part of the coalition government at that time, voted against the move in Parliament.

Erdoğan claimed the three-party coalition signed a decree in early 2002 to postpone the execution of Öcalan and accused Bahçeli of being part of this effort. “If you had not postponed it that time, we would no longer have such an issue on the country’s agenda,” the prime minister said.

Questioned further on the issue, Erdoğan said if he had been in the government at that time, he would have pushed for Öcalan’s execution and would have withdrawn from the coalition government if his partners could not be convinced to carry out the order.

Under the current conditions, Erdoğan made it clear the AKP would not allow a change in Öcalan’s status. “As long as Tayyip is alive and his party continues ruling the country, I won’t allow this to happen,” he said.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Criticisms against business world

In another interview late Wednesday with CNNTürk, Erdoğan continued his harsh criticism of businessman İnan Kıraç and the country’s largest business group.

“I have accepted some of İnan Kıraç’s invitations in the past. I will not any longer,” Erdoğan told the private broadcaster when asked what he meant by comments last week in which he said Kıraç “was taking a risk” by predicting the main opposition party would win the June 12 general elections.

“Involvement in such things is a serious risk for him, as a businessman with influence,” the prime minister told journalists after daily Cumhuriyet claimed Kıraç had bet on the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, emerging victorious in the nationwide polls.

“I would say it again. Nowhere else in the world do businessmen make such clear declarations about countries’ political activities,” Erdoğan said. “They can’t say, ‘This will happen or that will happen.’ Because they know they have to work with whoever comes to power. They don’t take such risks. And this is what I said [about Kıraç].”

Asked about the specific risk facing Kıraç, Erdoğan said that in addition to uncertainty over future contracts with the ruling party, he would not attend any events organized by the businessman.

The prime minister said he would avoid such events until Kıraç said he did not make such a bet.

Erdoğan also criticized the businessman for discussing the matter behind closed doors. “It would have been more respectful if he had come out and made his statement publicly,” he said.

As for the Turkish Industry & Business Association, or TUSİAD, Erdoğan said they were “ambiguous and unpredictable, but we know what their stance is” and criticized the group for failing to support the government’s proposed constitutional amendments, which were passed in a referendum in September.