A former PKK member released from Turkish custody yesterday has reportedly told authorities that he had witnessed US military officers visiting Kurdish rebel camps in northern Iraq while he was living there.
Turkish media describes the man as a former truck driver who transported goods across the border until he joined the PKK. It's unclear when he left the PKK, but reports indicate he turned himself in to northern Iraqi authorities, who transferred him to Turkish custody at the Habur border gate four months ago.
Appearing in front of a court in Diyarbakir this week, the man testified that he had witnessed US soldiers visiting the camp near Hakurk, where he had been based.
"They used to come and go on a regular basis. However, only senior members were admitted to the meetings, so I don't know about the details," he said, according to the Turkish Daily News.
He said the American soldiers drove into the camps in armored vehicles, and were recognizable based on their style of uniform.
The Doğan News Agency reported he told the court, "I used to carry U.S. military supplies to Iraq when I was a truck driver so I know U.S. officers have an American flag on the upper section of their sleeves."
The court ruled the man could be released under the terms of Turkey's "repentance law," after deciding that he had not undertaken any violent actions against Turkish troops, and had left the group voluntarily because he had regrets and doubts about their agenda.
A spokesperson from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara said it was a "ridiculous idea" to think that the United States supports the outlawed group, speaking to the Turkish Daily News yesterday. "The PKK is a terrorist organization. We have been working with Turkish authorities for many years to defeat this organization. We are not dealing with terrorists," she said.
Reports surfaced this summer that US-issued weapons had made it into the hands of the PKK, though the American officials have always maintained that the arms must have been stolen or otherwise transferred to the group's possession via an undetermined circuitous route.
The United States is not the only country scrambling to get a handle on reports that its citizens have been involved in assisting the PKK, as the trial of a Canadian bank robber recently revealed that the British boss of his criminal gang was funneling money to the Kurdish rebel group.
The New Anatolian reports that in a phone tap transcript, Canadian thief Gerald Blanchard says “The Boss” planned to use the money to finance Kurdish militants and possibly other terrorist groups.
Sheila Leinburd, the Canadian government attorney, said: “His lawyer said the money went to the Kurdish freedom fighters in Iraq — those were his exact words. 'We knew the money was used to fund terrorism.'"
Leinburd claims the criminal operation did not only span the UK-Canada connection, but also had cells in Spain and other European countries. She indicated the British government knew the identity of "the Boss" and were pursuing him.