LONDON-Britain’s grandiose Houses of Parliament are a universally recognized symbol associated with the legislature's reputation as the “mother of parliaments”. The home of Big Ben and the House of Commons’ famous green benches is not just the setting for one of the world’s oldest assemblies - it is also the venue for lobby groups hoping to promote their causes in an imposing setting.
One event planned for next week has attracted condemnation before it has even been held - because it is to support the leader of a recognized terrorist group.
On Monday, April 25, a U.K. opposition lawmaker will host the launch of a campaign for the release of Abdullah Ocalan.
Ocalan is the imprisoned head of the PKK, which has waged an armed conflict with Turkey for more than three decades, resulting in more than 40,000 deaths, and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and EU as well as Britain itself.
He was arrested by Turkish forces in 1999 and sentenced to death for forming an armed gang under Article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when the death penalty was abolished in 2004.
The event’s legality is unclear. British lawmakers are certainly permitted to host lobby group events on the parliamentary estate and there are no restrictions on the content of the meetings.
Yet encouraging terrorism is a criminal offense under U.K. law that carries a prison sentence of up to seven years.
According to the Terrorism Act 2006, this includes statements that directly or indirectly encourage “the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism” and includes a clause on glorifying any acts committed in the past.
Monday’s campaign launch is hosted by Labour Party lawmaker Kate Osamor, a close ally of the party’s left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Osamor represents Edmonton, a district of north London that is home to the largest number of Turkish speakers in the country.
It was her party that designated the PKK as a terrorist organization in 2001, under the government led by Tony Blair.
Osamor did not return repeated requests for comment on whether she disagreed with the U.K. government’s position that the PKK is a terrorist organization.