|Turkish spy chiefs under pressure on Kurd rebels|
Turkish state prosecutors have sought permission from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to question spy
chiefs over their secret contacts with Kurdish militants, media reports said on Friday, challenging government moves to curb the investigation.
Nationalists in the conservative establishment are deeply suspicious of making concessions to separatists or negotiating with the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.
Erdogan appears likely to turn down the request, given the way the government rushed through legislation three weeks ago to protect the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) from the courts.
Media reports say the prime minister has 60 days to decide. What is surprising is that the prosecutors, armed by the government with special powers to tackle terrorism and investigate alleged coup plots, have refused to give up their pursuit of an agency that answers directly to the prime minister.
The prosecutor's office declined comment on the reports. In recent years, these special prosecutors had earned reputations targeting military officers, journalists, lawyers and academics, over alleged anti-government conspiracies, as well as Kurdish politicians and activists suspected of links with separatist militants.
Prosecutors want to question MIT chief Hakan Fidan and four other MIT officials about secret talks held with representatives of the PKK in Oslo in 2010 and about MIT infiltration of a PKK-linked group. In tapes of the 2010 PKK talks leaked on the internet last year, Fidan, then the prime minister's special envoy, said Erdogan was prepared to take a great political risk to pursue peace talks.
The investigation has fuelled speculation of a power struggle between the police, judiciary and the MIT, though Erdogan has denied any rift within the state apparatus. In an interview with Reuters last week, President Abdullah Gul asserted the state's right to hold secret as well as open talks to seek a solution to the Kurdish conflict, and said within that framework initiatives "are still being realised." Erdogan says he is determined to solve the Kurdish problem and bring an end to a separatist conflict that began in the mid-1980s and has resulted in over 40,000 deaths. "Whatever the price, with God's permission and the nation's support and prayers this problem will be solved. We will continue to struggle with this aim until our last breath," he told members of the ruling AK Party earlier this week.
Erdogan's government has in recent years pushed through reforms, such as allowing Kurdish language broadcasting, in a bid to address Kurdish minority grievances and end the conflict. He had also given his blessing for thealks between MIT and representatives of the PKK, who took up arms in 1984 with the aim of creating a separate state in the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country. The Istanbul prosecutor who initially summoned Fidan for questioning has been taken off the case, while several high ranking police officers in the city, where the investigations of Kurdish militants is focused, have been reassigned.