AK Party deputy backpedals on amnesty remarks

May 17, 2012, Thursday/ 15:49:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Abdurrahim Akdağ, a Mardin deputy for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), has said his recent remarks about a possible general amnesty for members of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) were distorted by the press.

In a written statement on Wednesday evening, Akdağ said: “I had said a general amnesty may be introduced if a peaceful atmosphere is restored [in Turkey]. However, some newspapers distorted [my remarks] and said a general amnesty would be granted to the PKK. I denounce this [the distortion].”

The deputy's initial remarks regarding an amnesty came as he held a press conference at the AK Party building in Mardin on Wednesday afternoon. He was among a group of ruling party deputies who had traveled to eastern and southeastern Turkey last week as part of the party's plans to study the Kurdish problem and suggest solutions. “If a peaceful atmosphere is created, a general amnesty [for PKK terrorists] may be put on the agenda [for discussion]. Three hundred high-level administrators of the organization [the PKK] may go to third countries. And the others may engage in politics,” Akdağ told reporters during the press conference.

The Kurdish question has existed since the very first years of the republic but turned violent in 1984 after the terrorist PKK began clashes with the Turkish military. More than 40,000 people, including civilian and security forces, have been killed in clashes with terrorists thus far. Political experts say granting a general amnesty to PKK terrorists may help settle the terrorism problem, but most Turkish politicians are opposed to an amnesty.

Responding to reporters' questions about Akdağ's remarks about an amnesty for PKK terrorists, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said neither the AK Party nor the government have any plans for such an amnesty. “We have not done a study [on a general amnesty]. I do not know on what basis the deputy made such a statement. There is currently no study, talk or plan for an amnesty in the AK Party or the government. The deputy may have been expressing his own opinion,” Bozdağ added.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin also spoke to reporters on Thursday and said Akdağ expressed his own opinion about a general amnesty and not that of the AK Party. "Different opinions are raised and expressed in Turkey. Our deputy expressed his own opinion, too. Some of those opinions are adopted and discussed by political parties, and some others remain as individual opinions," he asserted.

The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, criticized the AK Party for its deputy's remarks on a general amnesty and said the Turkish nation would never allow politicians to introduce an amnesty for terrorists at a time when security forces continue to be killed by the PKK. Bahçeli also asked the prime minister to apologize to the Turkish nation for his deputy's remarks.

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