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 Turkey: KCK case a peculiar example on language rights

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Turkey: KCK case a peculiar example on language rights  12.8.2011  

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August 12, 2011

ISTANBUL, — The case where more than 2 thousand Kurdish politicians and rights activists are on trial stays stuck as the court refuse to allow the use of Kurdish, the defendants' mother tongue. Lawyer Cinmen criticizes the government.

The massive case against Kurdish politicians and rights activists, who are tried for 'being members to the urban organization of the Kurdish rebel group PKK, the KCK', is still stuck following its 27th sitting on Wednesday in the main Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.

Following the court's decision to restrain defendants from using their mother tongue Kurdish,
www.ekurd.netdefense lawyers withdrew from the case and the Diyarbakir Bar Association declined to assign any lawyers.

The court postponed the case to August 25th and will consider moving the case to another city.

With more than 2 thousand defendants, the case is one of the biggest in Turkey's history. Lawyer and rights activist Ergin Cinmen argues that the case clearly depends on political motives.

He notes that the investigation against the defendants has been conducted by the police and by judges with special authorities. All in all, he concludes that the case is forced to block a peaceful solution to the decades-long Kurdish issue.

"Elected mayors, lawyers that deal with rights violations and prominent intellectuals of the region are charged in this case."

He says that the court's decision to disallow defense in Kurdish clearly contradicts national and international legislation. "Such an attitude should have been left in the past. A state owned TV channel broadcasts in Kurdish yet the judges continue to define Kurdish as 'an unknown language'. Code of Criminal Procedure states that the defendants can defend themselves in the most convenient language and the Lausanne Treaty also secures this right."

State's failure to allow a group of its citizens to use their mother tongues in courts could cause Turkey to be condemned in the European Court of Human Rights, Cinmen says.

He was among the lawyers who had visited a group of defendants in prison in mid-July. "None of them thinks they have done anything against the law," he quotes.

He holds the government responsible from the situation and adds that under such circumstances it would be impossible to make progress in the Kurdish issue.

On October 18, 2010 a Turkish court began the trial of 152 high profile Kurdish politicians and rights defenders, accused of being the urban wing of separatist Kurdish (Kurdistan Workers' Party) PKK rebels.

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, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous Kurdish 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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