Turkey Watch

Watching the Turkish nail being put into Europian coffin.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Pro-Kurdish party leaders charged

From Green Left

Simon Cooper, Istanbul

In three successive days, criminal investigations were launched against five leaders of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) by Turkish government authorities. The alleged crimes are of “praising and aiding” the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) through public statements and in DTP leaflets.

In the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir, the public prosecutor’s office completed an indictment against the DTP mayor Osman Baydemir on July 4 for a single sentence in a speech he made during a series of pro-Kurdish protests that erupted throughout Turkey in March.

The mass demonstrations began after the public funerals of 14 PKK members killed by the Turkish military in the eastern province of Bingol. Turkish police and troops immediately declared the protests illegal and met the demonstrators with severe repression. More than 20 people were left dead.

According to the New Anatolian, Baydemir has been charged for making the following comment: “This city, this region, was mourning 14 people but now it’s risen to 16.” Baydemir was referring to the 14 dead PKK activists, along with a further two protesters killed at the beginning of the mass demonstrations.

Turkish authorities argue that this comment amounts to siding with both the “illegal” demonstrations and the PKK (which is listed as a terrorist organisation). If convicted, Baydemin faces up to 10 years in prison — a little over eight months’ jail for each word uttered.

Baydemin already faces other criminal charges for alleged ties to the PKK, including for allowing a Diyarbakir city ambulance to transport the dead body of a PKK member slain by Turkish security forces. Charges have also been filed against another DTP mayor from the nearby city of Batman for alleged membership of the PKK.

In another case, Mahmut Almak, the DTP head in the north-eastern city of Kars, is facing a lengthy sentence for a speech he gave at a recent conference. Commenting on the struggle for democratic rights and Kurdish autonomy, Almak argued that a successful and democratic resolution of the ongoing conflict will not come about through the existing officialdom of the Turkish state. Instead he called for the launch of a civic political alliance between the Turkish and Kurdish peoples to achieve democratic change. The public prosecutor is seeking a 15-year sentence for Almak.

Almak condemned the new charges against him in the July 6 edition of the New Analtolian, declaring Turkey to be a graveyard for the democratic rights of the Turkish and Kurdish peoples but heaven for those in power. In the six months since he became the head of the Kars branch of the DTP, Almak has had seven charges laid against him for making statements allegedly in praise of the PKK and the Kurdish struggle.

Two central leaders of the DTP were also charged on July 6 for handing out what authorities have called “pro-PKK leaflets” at the March 8 International Women’s Day protest. DTP chair Ahmet Turk and former party co-chair Aysel Tugluk have been accused of distributing leaflets that included remarks about imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, which is an illegal act under Turkish law. If found guilty, they can expect two years and six months in prison respectively.

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