Kurds to go from jail to Turkish parliament

Nine members of Turkey’s new parliament will come from prison, where they are awaiting trial over coup plots and links to Kurdish rebels.

They were all fielded by the opposition in what was seen as a move of defiance against the authorities for launching several controversial probes that have seen hundreds of people, among them intellectual and Kurdish activists, land in court in recent years.

They are now expected to be released to join parliament, but will still face trial.

Popular journalist Mustafa Balbay and academic Mehmet Haberal were elected as candidates of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in Sunday’s parliamentary polls,www.ekurd.netwhile retired general Engin Alan won a seat on the ticket of the second largest opposition force, the Nationalist Action Party.

They are on trial as part of sprawling investigations into alleged plots to destabilize and overthrow the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won a third straight term in power in Sunday’s polls with almost 50 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

The probes, hailed initially as a long-belated move to rein in the intrusive army, have come under fire for having degenerated into a government-backed campaign to bully critics.

Two other suspects – jurist Ilhan Cihaner and businessman Sinan Aygun – who spent stints in jail but were later released — also won seats on the CHP ticket.

Poised to win their freedom are also six Kurdish activists, jailed as part of a probe into separatist Kurdish rebels fighting Ankara since 1984.

Among them is Hatip Dicle, a prominent Kurdish figure who served briefly as a lawmaker in the early 1990s.

In 2007 a jailed Kurdish activist Sebahat Tuncel elected to Turkey’s legislature, who is backed by pro-Kurdish DTP party was released to take a seat at Turkish parliament.

The six are among 36 people elected with the support of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, which fielded its candidates as independents to go round a 10-percent national threshold that parties need to pass to enter parliament.

Since it was established in 1984, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey’s Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

PKK’s demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

The PKK is considered a ‘terrorist’ organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union’s terror list.


June 13, 2011


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