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Tue Aug 27 19:10:14 MDT 1996

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From: Arm The Spirit <ats at>
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Subject: Kurdish Party Leaders Charged In Turkey
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 96 16:51:57 -0701

Kurdish Party Leaders Charged In Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey (Reuter - August 26, 1996) A Turkish court has
indicted top members of a Kurdish party for forming an armed
separatist gang in a case reminiscent of an earlier trial of
Kurdish MPs that badly damaged Ankara's shaky rights record.
     "They have brought charges. The allegations are extremely
serious", Sedat Aslantas, a lawyer of the People's Democracy
Party (HADEP), told Reuters on Monday.
     HADEP lawyers said 41 people had been indicted, including
party leader Murat Bozlak and other executives, many of whom are
to be tried under article 168 of the penal code, which has a
maximum jail sentence of 22 1/2 years.
     The trial could bring further problems for Ankara abroad
over its human rights credentials and undermine promises by
Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan to improve justice and
tackle a 12-year Kurdish insurgency in the spirit of "brotherly
     "The hawks are still in control in Turkey", said political
analyst Mehmet Altan. Erbakan, two months into his premiership,
did not look like he could combat the hardline military thinking
that dominates Turkish state affairs, Altan said.
     Sirri Sakik, a prominent Kurdish politician, is to be tried
under Article 8 of the anti-terror law - against separatist
propaganda - which has a maximum three-year jail sentence and is
often used to limit discussion of the Kurdish issue.
     Sakik was tried and sentenced alongside six other MPs of the
pro-Kurdish Democracy Party (DEP) in 1994 in a trial that sparked
widespread condemnation from Turkey's Western allies and hindered
Ankara's efforts for closer ties with Europe.
     Four of the six, including Nobel-prize nominee Leyla Zana,
are still in jail on 15-year sentences under article 168, which
punishes leading an armed group formed to divide the country.
     "It looks like this could go the way of DEP", Aslantas said.
"The charges are similar. The prosecutor has turned his political
views into an indictment.. There is no proof."
     He said the prosecution's evidence was largely based on
speeches by HADEP members. DEP lawyers had charged the same.
     After the DEP trial, Turkey was pressed by Europe to improve
its rights record as a condition for signing a customs union
deal. It changed its 1992 military-era constitution and slightly
eased Article 8, allowing the deal to go into effect in January.
     But rights activists and lawyers say the changes were
cosmetic and failed to address the core of the problem.
     "The mentality at the time of DEP has not changed a jot. I
can see HADEP going to the constitutional court", Aslantas said.
     HADEP was formed after DEP was closed down by Turkey's
constitutional court in 1994 and its 13 MPs thrown out of
parliament for alleged links with the Kurdish separatists.
     Twenty-eight of the defendants have been in jail since June
after masked youths tore down a Turkish flag at a party congress
and replaced it with the banner of the rebel Kurdistan Workers
Party (PKK) and a poster of its leader, Abdullah Ocalan.
     More than 20,000 people have been killed since 1984 in the
PKK's fight with the army for control of the southeast.
     "In the indictment we say HADEP worked as a recruitment
office for the PKK", prosecutor Nuh Mete Yuksel said.
     He said HADEP gave pro-PKK training and that it was clear
>from Ocalan's speeches on pro-Kurdish television and speeches by
HADEP members that the party was trying to legitimise the PKK.
     "And the latest lowering of the Turkish flag in public is an
example of this", Yuksel told Reuters.
     A man was arrested on Monday by Ankara state security court
over the flag incident, Anatolian news agency said. Faysal Akcan
faces the capital charge of treason.
     Turkey's sensivity towards its red-and-white national flag
was demonstrated earlier this month when a Greek Cypriot
protester was killed trying to tear down a Turkish flag on land
controlled by Turkish Cypriots.
     "There will be little reaction to the trial at home as this
is hidden behind the flag business", said Altan. "But DEP was a
legal scandal... And Europe will be looking more closely to see
what this new trial is all about."

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