Find below the question Lord Hylton posed to the Foreign Secretary on the continued imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan and the latest wave of arrests in Turkey:
Here is the text of a letter I wrote to the Foreign Secretary, and a the response received from the Minister for Europe:
30th September 2011
Turkey, Iraq, Iran: I understand that President Talabani of Iraq has suggested (probably on 26th September) to Mrs Leyla Zana, when she visited him, that Mr Abdullah Ocalan (now in solitary confinement in Turkey) be moved to house arrest. It is possible that this suggestion has also been made to the Turkish Government (see http://www.rudaw.net/english/author/admin/). It would be a helpful move, in vies of his popularity among the Kurds of Turkey.
Mrs Zana had earlier written an important letter to President Obama, the UN Secretary General, and others in Europe, about the failure to make any progress in the Kurdish issue in Turkey and the long drawn out conflict, which has led to many attacks by Turkey into Iraq and to some by Iran (as well as killing thousands).
Evidence for the lack of progress can be found in the continued imprisonment of five members of the Grand National Assembly, together with a very large number of mayors, councillors and members of the BDP party. These include Mr Muharrem Erbey, whom I have met in Diyarbakir at least twice, and count as a friend. (I am putting down a separate PQ about him.)
You will probably know that the Turkish Intelligence Service has already had conversations with Mr Ocalan in prison. Whether this is an indication of an impending development of policy on the part of the Turkish Government, I cannot tell, but perhaps it is possible. There are strong signs that the BDP will soon end its boycott of the Turkish Parliament.
This may therefore be an appropriate moment, against the background of the Arab Spring, for you to use your influence to secure some genuine progress in the situation of the Kurds in Turkey. If this happens, Turkey would become a more reliable member of NATO and its positive influence within the Middle East would increase, including, for example, over the Kurds of Syria and Iran.
Britain has a long record of negotiation with the IRA and other groups, previously looked on as terrorist. Perhaps you could quote this in encouraging Turkey to pursue internal dialogue. It would be a great step forward if political prisoners were progressively released and if education in the Kurdish language were allowed in all state primary schools, whether there is sufficient demand. A serious effort to review and revise the existing, military inspired, constitution, would also be very widely welcomed.
Reply, dated 24th October 2011:
Thank you for your letter of 30th September to the Foreign Secretary about Turkey, Iraq and Iran. I am replying as the Minister responsible for Europe.
The imprisonment of large numbers of BDP activists continues to highlight the problems surrounding the Kurdish issue. While it is not general British Government practice to comment on individual judicial processes, we expect high legal and judicial standards to be observed. But the legal basis under which members of parliament serve is a matter for the relevant legislative authorities.
Since you wrote your letter we are very encouraged by the recent announcement that the BDP has ended its boycott. It is also encouraging that the BDP will be involved in the process of drafting a new constitution that we hope will guarantee the rule of law, human rights and the protection of all minorities, including the Kurds. It would appear that work is already underway on this in parliament.
I have responded separately to your letter of 27th September about the case of Abdullah Ocalan.