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Cablegate: Diyarbakir's Dehap Mayor Burns Bridges with Condolence Visit

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ADANA 000104

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PTER PHUM ASEC TU ADANA
SUBJECT: DIYARBAKIR'S DEHAP MAYOR BURNS BRIDGES WITH CONDOLENCE VISIT
TO PKK MILITANT'S FAMILY


1. (SBU) Summary: After a nine-day security operation and
killing of two alleged PKK/Kongra-Gel members reportedly
involved in a deadly July 28 attack on a Diyarbakir police
station, greater Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir (DEHAP) paid a
condolence visit to the family of one of the alleged PKK
members. The Diyarbakir Governor's Office subsequently
requested an investigation of Baydemir and four local mayors for
that visit, citing among other things the Mayor's improper use
of an official vehicle. In August 11 meetings, DPO relayed to
Baydemir strong U.S. disapproval of his action, and extended
condolences on the death of the security guard in the July 28
attack to Diyarbakir's Deputy Governor and Security Director.
Several human rights contacts in Diyarbakir privately called
Baydemir's condolence visit a mistake, and despite their
optimism about human rights developments in recent years, all
are concerned about backsliding on the GOT's implementation of
human rights reforms in the region in the wake of the PKK's June
2004 abandonment of its ceasefire and the tension it has created
between the people and security forces in the region. End
summary.

2. (U) On July 28, a PKK/Kongra-Gel attack against a police
station in the Mardinkapi neighborhood of Diyarbakir resulted in
the death of one security guard and the wounding of two other
security officers. The Diyarbakir security directorate
subsequently launched a nine-day operation to apprehend PKK
militants who had fled the scene and taken refuge in a wooded
area just outside the city known as Hevsel Gardens. During the
operation, citizens living within the area of the dragnet were
reportedly blocked from leaving, and non-security personnel were
prevented from entering the area. According to Turkish
officials, the operation netted two PKK militants and three
individuals charged with abetting the PKK.

The Official View of Events in Mardinkapi
--------------------------------------------- -------------

3. (SBU) Diyarbakir Deputy Governor told DPO on August 12 that
the July 28 attack had been perpetrated against a police station
some 300-400 meters away from a music festival that had been
organized that evening. He claimed that the grenades launched
at the police had come out of the festival. He confirmed that
one security officer was killed in the attack and that at least
three others were wounded (Note: In addition to two security
officers, the wounded included the Deputy Mayor of Sur
Municipality. End note.) While outlining the operation on a
map, he explained to DPO that forces had surrounded a wooded
area, used thermal cameras in their search for the perpetrators
of the attack, and arrested two persons the morning following
the attack. The brother of one of the militants was also
arrested and provided information; two others were arrested for
providing shelter for the militants. Despite these five
arrests, two militants involved in the attack had escaped, he
said, and for nine days the government called for their
surrender. A group of forces organized to comb the area came
upon them and engaged them in a firefight; the two armed PKK
members were killed, according to the Deputy Governor, and their
fingerprints supposedly confirmed involvement in the attack on
the police station. (Note: there was no additional information
provided on how this confirmation was made. End note.)

4. (U) On August 9, Turkish dailies reported that Diyarbakir
Mayor Osman Baydemir (DEHAP) along with mayors of four smaller
townships had paid a condolence visit to the family of one of
the PKK members who had fled the attack scene and been killed in
the operation. The Diyarbakir Governor's Office responded to
the visit of Baydemir and the other mayors by requesting an
investigation of the five DEHAP politicians for their action,
citing among other things their improper use of official
vehicles for the visit. The Interior Ministry has also been
called upon to investigate the case.

The Mayor Makes His Case
----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) During a trip that had been scheduled before news of
Baydemir's visit to the PKK member's family had surfaced, DPO
met with the mayor on August 11 to inform him of our strong
disapproval of his action, and to reiterate that the U.S.
considers the PKK a terrorist organization and opposes any
action that appears to support the PKK, especially this case
where a security officer was killed.

6. (SBU) Baydemir told DPO that he learned about the Mardinkapi
incident while participating on a television program. He
stressed that under normal circumstances he would have been
attending the festival that had been organized that evening for
local singers and that it was only the previous TV engagement
that prevented him from going. This is significant, he said,
because five or six minutes before the explosion at the police
station cars carrying other local mayors had passed by it.
There was a lot of activity on the road in the vicinity of the
police checkpoint that evening, and he questioned "who was
really targeted in that attack."

7. (SBU) After receiving news of the attack, Baydemir claims
he went to the hospital and visited the wounded security
officials, expressing his concern. He stayed for approximately
one hour, he said, along with other government officials. He
claims the family of the guard was there, and he told them he
shared in their suffering. He also visited the municipal
official who had been wounded. As he exited the hospital, he
told DPO, members of the press were present and he told them
while he didn't have all the information about the incident, he
was against all attacks and did not want blood to be shed.
(Note: Press accounts have contradicted his account of the
guard's family members being present. End note.)

8. (SBU) Baydemir together with several other local officials
had plans to travel the following day (July 29) to Tunceli for a
cultural festival. The night of July 28 he asked government
officials if he should stay out at the hospital and in
Diyarbakir out of courtesy, and they responded that there was no
need to stay. He went to Tunceli as planned the following day
and upon his return two days later he found "great tension,"
especially at the area of the operation. Baydemir stated that
he received numerous complaints from citizens inside the area
affected by the operation about such things as food shortages,
health problems, and the effect the operation was having upon
children. He met with the Diyarbakir Governor in an
unsuccessful attempt to gain access for himself and NGO
representatives to the scene of the operation. "Normally I
should be getting information about such operations from the
Security Directorate," he said, underlining that they were
requesting access to a civilian area. After being denied access
by security officials, he claims he spoke with the Minister of
the Interior, who had been supportive.

9. (SBU) After the operation was concluded and news of the
"extrajudicial killing" got out, he said, Baydemir expressed his
condolences in a visit to the PKK member's family and shared
their grief, asking that this be the final victim. "It's our
tradition," he said; "If you don't do such a thing you'll be
ashamed. Crime is an individual thing; it does not belong to
the family." Baydemir ended his lengthy defense by underlining
his view that the violence must stop unconditionally. "I could
have been killed that night," he pleaded, "how could you think I
support that?" He stressed that it is difficult to work on the
underlying problems of poverty and unemployment in a poor
security environment. Turkey has shown its preference for the
EU, he said, and substantial development is taking place in
democracy.

11. (SBU) DPO relayed to Baydemir that: the U.S. government
considers the PKK a terrorist organization and PKK members
terrorists; the EU has also listed the PKK as a terrorist
organization; and that terror is not a legitimate way to work
for political, social, economic or cultural rights. DPO
informed Baydemir that we oppose any action that even appears to
support the PKK, especially in the killing of a security
officer. Regardless of his intentions, his visit gave that
appearance, DPO continued, adding that such actions foster
anger, suspicion and tension, not reconciliation. Baydemir
maintained until the end of the meeting that he was "at peace
with his conscience."

Security Director: "All Diyarbakir NGOs tied to PKK"
--------------------------------------------- --------------
-----------------

12. (SBU) Hours after meeting Mayor Baydemir, DPO called on
Diyarbakir Security Director Orhan Okur and presented a wreath
and condolences on the loss of a member of the security
personnel in the July 28 attack. DPO reiterated the USG
position that the PKK is a terrorist organization and told Okur
of the call on Baydemir, adding that the visit had been used to
convey a message of strong disapproval for Baydemir's action.

13. (SBU) Rather than dwelling on the Mardinkapi incident and
the Mayor's controversial visit, Okur - using European Court of
Human Rights publications and internet postings by human rights
groups as visual aids - proceeded to lecture DPO about the
misinformation campaign being waged by NGOs against the
government. "We know Article 17 very well," he said, "It
prohibits us from violating and limiting rights - don't worry
about our taking care of human rights." But all NGOs in town
have ties with the PKK, he argued, and he produced two examples
where NGO reports alleging misdeeds by security forces were
eventually proved wrong. Such reports help the PKK and their
recruitment efforts he said, and are not results of a lack of
professionalism, but the product of ill-intentioned individuals.


14. (SBU) Comment: With this visit, Baydemir overstepped the
parameters of GOT tolerance for pro-Kurdish activities in the
Southeast, which have expanded in the past two years. Even
contacts at both Diyarbakir's activist pro-Kurdish Bar
Association and in local private business agreed, and said they
had told the Mayor as much. Baydemir's actions have dimmed any
potentially positive effect that he might have been able to have
as a bridge between the Kurdish community and government
officials, especially given attitudes such as that displayed by
Security Director Okur and shared by many other officials.

15. (SBU) Comment, cont'd: Regardless of whether or not the
charges against him move forward, the press seems intent on
keeping this issue alive and Baydemir has given them ample fuel
for the fire. August 16 media reports point to a June 2004
incident in which Baydemir allegedly dispatched a municipal
ambulance to retrieve the corpse of a PKK militant after his May
28 shooting and subsequent death in Adana, bringing the body
back to Diyarbakir for the burial ceremony. Such acts, even
without the use of official vehicles, at best show poor judgment
and at worst provide comfort and support to a terrorist
organization. Contacts ranging from leftist Kurdish human
rights activists to wealthy local businessmen agreed that the
past 5 years had felt like "detente" and that the human rights
situation had improved in very important ways (septel). All are
now concerned about backsliding on the GOT's implementation of
human rights reforms in the region in the wake of the PKK's
abandonment of its five-year ceasefire and increasing tension
between the public and security forces about how security forces
are responding. In this context Baydemir's apparent indulgence
of the PKK/Kongra-Gel is all the more ill-conceived and
potentially inflammatory. Baydemir's actions are also a
discouraging reminder that DEHAP and other regional political
leaders in the Southeast have not yet found the will to break
with the PKK.

REID

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