October 18, 2010
151 high profile Kurdish politicians and rights
defenders will appear at court for the first time on
18 October. ANF Photo.
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More than 60 civil society organizations in
Diyarbakir called for the release of the elected
politicians, members of professional unions and
representatives of civil society organizations.
Photo: Todays Zaman
DIYARBAKIR, Kurdish Southeastern
region of Turkey, — A Turkish court began the trial
Monday of 151 high profile Kurdish politicians and
rights defenders, among them popular politicians,
accused of being the urban wing of separatist
Kurdish rebels, in a case seen as a democracy test
The trial coincides with cautious steps by the
Turkish government to grant wider rights to its
sizeable Kurdish community with the hope of ending a
deadly 26-year Kurdish insurgency.
Heavy security was in place outside the courthouse
in Diyarbakir, the regional capital of the mainly
Kurdish southeast, for the trial which is also being
followed by intellectuals and rights activists from
The 7,500-page indictment accuses the suspects of
involvement in the Kurdistan Associations Union (KCK),
which prosecutors describe as a terrorist group that
acts as the urban extension of the armed Kurdistan
Workers' Party (PKK).
It calls for jail terms ranging from five years to
life in jail on various charges including
"leadership and membership of a terrorist
the state's unity", "spreading terrorist propaganda"
and "aiding an abetting a terrorist organisation".
Among the suspects is
Osman Baydemir, the popular
mayor of Diyarbakir who risks up to 36 years in jail
on various charges.
Eleven other regional mayors from Turkey's main
Kurdish party -- the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)
-- and former lawmaker Hatip Dicle are among the
In Monday's hearing, defence lawyers demanded that
they be allowed to make their arguments in Kurdish.
The judges adjourned the case until the afternoon to
rule on the demand.
The indictment says the
KCK recruited militants for the PKK, made all major
decisions shaping Kurdish political life such as the
selection of candidates for municipal and
parliamentary seats, syphoned off money from
Kurdish-held local administrations and orchestrated
violent street protests.
Turkey's main Kurdish political parties allegedly
acted in line with KCK directives and the
organisation was said to be influential enough to
slap sanctions on those who disobeyed its decisions.
Kurdish mayors were allegedly required to donate to
the KCK the two first salaries they received upon
election,www.ekurd.net while municipal employees were required to
donate part of their salaries every month.
The indictment said the KCK was headed by an
11-strong board led by Sabri Ok, a senior PKK
militant known to be based in Europe who is being
tried in absentia.
The charges were brought as part of a massive
crackdown on Kurdish activists in the southeast
since last year, in which a number of weapons were
Defence lawyers and Kurdish activists have slammed
the trial as a move to "silence Kurds".
"Our clients are being tried as unarmed members of
an armed group," lawyer Meral Danis Bestas told
reporters last week.
"This is a political trial aimed at silencing
Kurds... This trial will serve as a lithmus test for
Turkey's democracy and how it views the Kurdish
conflict," she said.
Since 1984 the PKK [Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan] took
up arms for greater rights and autonomy in the
mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey
[Turkey-Kurdistan] which has claimed around 45,000
lives of Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK
The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds'
identity in its constitution and of their language
as a native language along with Turkish in the
country's Kurdish areas, the
party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination
in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds,
ranting them full political freedoms.
A large Turkey's Kurdish community estimate to over
20 million openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK
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
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.
Since August last year, the Turkish government has
been engaged in a cautious two-pronged strategy of
keeping the PKK under military pressure and
expanding the cultural and linguistic rights of its
Kurdish population in the hope of persuading the
rebels to lay down their weapons.
However, an ultimate settlement is not seen as a
Ankara has already ruled out Kurdish demands for a
constitutional recognition of their community as a
distinct element of Turkey's population and calls
for Kurdish-language education in public schools in
Trial observers and
According to information of the BDP, more than 2,200
were taken into police custody in different
provinces since 14 April 2009 in the scope of the 'KCK
operation'. Approximately 1,500 people are in
detention still. While a small number of defendants
have been convicted already, some others were
released pending trial. Most recently, another eight
people were arrested in Urfa.
On the first day of trial protest actions will be
organized in Diyarbakır and other provinces.
The İHD in Izmir and Istanbul are going to issue
Members of the Turkish Peace Parliament,
representatives of leftist/socialist parties, NGO
representatives, rights advocators and intellectuals
are expected to monitor the trial in Diyarbakır.
The BDP Diyarbakır organization is going to set up a
tent opposite of the courthouse.
Request for release
The DTP was strengthened by the result of the local
elections on 28 March last year, even thought the
ruling party (Justice and Development Party, AKP)
had claimed the opposite. The so-called 'KCK
operations' started right after the elections. The
government had initiated the 'democratic opening' in
July the same year. However, after a number of
meetings the atmosphere had changed to the contrary
by the end of 2009.
Attacks by the PKK had intensified and the number of
casualties increased. The issue was again advanced
by a ceasefire announced by the PKK in spring 2010,
more frequent talks with imprisoned PKK leader
Abdullah Öcalan, the referendum on the
constitutional reform package in September and
discussions on constitutional amendments.
The basic request of the rights defenders and
activists and most of all of the BDP is to release
the defendants pending trial. The joint attorneys
criticized that the long duration of detention has
turned into a punishment itself. They announced to
apply to the European Court of Human rights on
behalf of several defendants.
KCK trial must be
transparent says FIDH president
Belhassen said KCK trial one of the major violations
against human rights defenders in Kurdish region.
President of International Human Rights Federation (FIDH)
Souyahr Belhassen says the trial of 151 Kurdish
politicians which will be held tomorrow in
Diyarbakir, must be transparent.
Belhassen said that tomorrow's trial is one of the
major violations against human rights defenders in
Kurdish region. He pointed that the deputy president
of Human Rights Association (IHD) Muharrem Erbey
will also stand trial and said that he is a symbol
for the human rights struggle in Turkey.
Belhassen also said that it's their duty to inform
the international community about the developments
regarding the trial.
"The Kurdish politicians are standing trial because
they demanded their cultural rights and expressed
their opinions" he said.
"The prohibition of using the mother language must
be considered a crime. The detention of Kurdish
politicians is an act against freedom of expression"
Belhassen also called the government to reform the
constitution in aspect of human and minority rights.
BDP called Kurds to join
'Peace Watch Action' in Diyarbakir
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) MP Hamit Geylani
called all Kurds to join 'Peace Watch Action' in
front of the courthouse where 151 Kurdish
politicians will stand trial today.
Kurdish activists will stand in front of the
Diyarbakir Sixth High Criminal Court until the end
of the trial to protest unlawful detention of the
BDP MP Geylani said that detentions of Kurdish
politicians has a negative impact on peace process
and it's not compatible with democratic and
international law norms.
He called all Kurds to join the "Peace Watch Action"
in front of the courthouse saying that it's
important to show support for the jailed Kurdish
Geylani also criticized Turkish Prime Ministers
statements and told reporters that BPD supports all
efforts for peace with all its sincerity.
Yesterday Erdogan said, in his party's group
meeting, that BPD is not for peace in the region.
author or news agency, AFP | bianet.org | firatnews.com |
Ekurd.net | Agencies