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 Leyla Zana and 11 other Kurdish politicians barred from running for Turkish parliament

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Leyla Zana and 11 other Kurdish politicians barred from running for Turkish parliament  19.4.2011  

12 Kurdish politicians barred from running for Turkish parliament

April 19, 2011

ISTANBUL, — Turkey's elections board ruled on Monday that 12 Kurdish politicians who had registered as independent candidates in national elections set for June were ineligible to run for parliament because of their prior terrorism-related convictions, the semi-official Anatolia Agency reported.

Dozens of Kurdish politicians who support the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) had announced that they would run as independent candidates in the upcoming elections in an attempt to get over the 10 percent threshold in Turkey for parties to enter parliament.

Turkey's board of elections ruled that 12 of the candidates were ineligible to run because they had previously been convicted of taking part in or supporting terrorist activities.

The politicians include Leyla Zana, who caused an uproar when she attempted to make a speech in Kurdish after being sworn into the Turkish Parliament in 1991.

Zana was convicted of membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - considered a "terrorist" group by the European Union and the United States - and spent 10 years in prison.

The European Court of Human Rights later ruled that Turkey had violated Zana's right to freedom of expression and ordered the government to pay her compensation.         

Turkey's prominent outspoken Kurdish rights advocate Leyla Zana, former Kurdish MP in Turkey Zana spent a decade behind bars in Turkey for speaking Kurdish in the Turkish Parliament after taking her parliamentary oath. She was the first Kurdish woman to be elected to Turkey's parliament.

YSK banned Tuncel, Kışanak, Dicle, Zana, Kurkcu, Yildiz, Gurbuz from elections.

Selahattin Demirtas, chairman of the BDP, called the election board's decision 'a political operation; a political purge' that would benefit the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the elections.

'The state has decided to hand over [Turkey's south-eastern] region to the AKP,' Demirtas told broadcaster CNNTurk. 

Turkey has long surpressed attempts at autonomy by Kurds in the east of the country,
www.ekurd.netleading to a three-decade long insurgency in which thousands have died.

Since it was established in 1984, the 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 as '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.   

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