"We, former MPs once under a political ban and once
seen as the boogeymen, sincerely want to serve
democracy and peace. For this reason, we are
launching the popular democratic movement," Zana
told reporters Friday, shortly before she was due to
appear in court.
Zana became the first Kurdish woman to be elected to
Turkey's parliament in 1991, but her career came to
an end in 1994 when she and three other Kurdish
lawmakers -- Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Selim
Sadak -- were sentenced to 15 years in jail for
membership of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK),
engaged in a bloody campaign against the government.
Flanked by her three colleagues, Zana explained that
the fundamental principles of the new party would be
to "support Turkey's bid to join the European Union"
and "achieve a peaceful and democratic solution" to
Kurdish demands for more cultural and political
rights within Turkey's territorial integrity.
The party would also work for a "new and democratic"
constitution which would recognize the country's
"ethnic diversities", including the Kurds, she
"An overwhelming majority of the Turkish society
seems ready for rapid, meaningful and radical
change. No political party, whether in power or in
opposition, has been able to respond to the demands
of the people," said the 43-year-old Zana.
"The world is changing and Turkey cannot be kept
away from this change," she added.
Zana said that neither she nor her three colleagues
would stand for the chairmanship of the new party,
whose name was not yet determined.
Straight after the press conference, the four
appeared before an Ankara court to answer charges of
close links with the PKK, now known as KONGRA-GEL,
which first picked up arms against Ankara in 1984
and renewed the fighting in June after a five-year
Even if convicted, the four are not expected to go
back to jail because of the time they had already
served, their lawyer says.
In a legal saga closely watched by the European
Union, the four were first convicted in 1994, but
were allowed a retrial in March 2003 after the
European Court of Human Rights in 2001 condemned
their original trial as unfair.
The retrial upheld the original sentences, amid
accusations by human rights activists and defence
lawyers that the proceedings were once again flawed.
In July, the appeals court overturned the second
verdict, paving the way for the third trial.
In Friday's hearing, monitored by a handful of
foreign observers, the three-judge panel gave the
defence team additional time to prepare their
arguments and -- ironically -- set the second
hearing for December 17.
On that date, EU leaders will gather to assess
Turkey's progress at improving its cripped democracy
and decide whether to set a date to begin membership
talks with Ankara.
The new trial will be closely followed by the
25-nation bloc which sees it as a test of Turkey's
resolve to haul itself up to European standards.
The four have been adopted by the pan-European bloc
as prisoners of conscience and the European
parliament awarded Zana its prestigious Sakharov
human rights prize in 1995.
She was able to finally receive it in person last
week after Turkish authorities gave her permission
to travel abroad.
Since Zana's arrest, Turkey has enacted several EU-minded
reforms to grant cultural rights to its sizeable
Kurdish minority, including the right to broadcast
and teach in their own language.
10/22/2004 - 11:24 GMT - AFP