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 Turkey prosecutors seek to charge Kurdish PKK rebels

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Turkey prosecutors seek to charge Kurdish PKK rebels  20.10.2009  





Prosecutors said five of the eight rebels, who were among a group of 34 people, mainly refugees, who crossed from semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq into Turkey, should stand trial for membership in the PKK

October 20, 2009


DIYARBAKIR, Kurdish Southeastern region of Turkey, — Turkish prosecutors sought charges Tuesday against five Kurdish rebels who surrendered in a peace gesture, raising questions about whether thousands of other guerrillas can be persuaded to end their decades-long fight.

Amnesty for fighters and more rights for Turkey's Kurdish minority are key demands of the Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which began attacks in 1984 and is labelled a "terrorist" group by the West.                          

Turkish security members take position as they they wait for the arrival of Kurdish PKK rebels to surrender to Turkish authorities in the Turkish town of Silopi at the Turkey-Iraqi Kurdistan region border, Turkey, Monday, Oct. 19, 2009 AP
Turkish law pardons rebels not involved in attacks, but the PKK wants a broader amnesty that would include leaders who operate in Iraqi Kurdistan and jailed chief Abdullah Ocalan, a reviled figure for most Turks.

It backed the surrender of eight rebels on Monday, apparently to test the goodwill of a government that is seeking reconciliation with its Kurdish citizens.

"They're evaluating implementation of the repentance law to see if, in fact, it represents an adequate amnesty arrangement," said David Phillips, a Turkey expert at the Atlantic Council, a research center in Washington, D.C.

Prosecutors said five of the eight rebels, who were among a group of 34 people, mainly refugees, who crossed from semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq into Turkey, should stand trial for membership in the PKK, the Anatolia news agency reported. The crime carries a penalty of a long prison term.

Twenty-five others from the group were released pending trial on minor charges, while four were children and were not questioned. It was not immediately clear why five of the eight rebels came under heavier scrutiny.

Prosecutors said the five included people who traveled from PKK headquarters in Iraqi Kurdistan's Qandil mountains, which were bombed in a Turkish assault last year. Others were from a refugee camp,
www.ekurd.netMakhmur, that Turkey has been pressuring Iraq to shut down for alleged rebel activity.

A civilian court was set up at the Habur border crossing, and was deliberating whether to charge and jail the five rebels, or release them.

The rest of the group refused to leave before the announcement of a decision, according to Anatolia. On the Turkish side of the border, thousands of Kurds were hoping to welcome the group in a jubilant celebration, though the possible arrest of the five would sour the mood.

Security was heavy, with police setting up barricades and checking identification.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan noted in parliament that most members of the group were released in line with the law.

"I find this to be an extremely positive and pleasing development," he said. "I would like to renew my call to those on the mountains, those at Makhmur and those in Europe: I recommend that they return to their country without delay."

Nihat Ali Ozcan, a terrorism expert at the Economic Policy Research Institute in Ankara, said the government should heed reaction from hardline Turks opposed to reconciliation.

"The television footage of celebrations, like the return of Caesar to Rome after a victory, is likely to trigger fault lines in the rest of the country," Ozcan said on NTV television.

Turkey refuses to negotiate with the PKK, but Erdogan's Islamic-oriented government recognizes that military action alone cannot solve its conflict with Kurds, who have faced discrimination for years. Giving more social and economic opportunities to Kurds would also boost Turkey's struggling bid to join the European Union.

Kurds make up about 20 percent of Turkey's more than 70 million people and dominate the country's poor southeast.

Critically, the Turkish military has let the government take the lead on Kurdish pronouncements, signaling its tacit support. The military has often intervened in politics and has sparred with the current government over its commitment to Turkey's secular principles.

"We are heading toward a conclusion with a good plan," Interior Minister Besir Atalay said.

Cemil Bayik, a PKK leader in Iraq, questioned Turkish sincerity and said the rebel group would not disband as long as "Kurdish identity" was not accepted.

"The PKK will not come down from the mountains just because it has a positive outlook toward the peace groups," the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency quoted Bayik as saying.

Since 1984 the PKK took up arms for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan) which has claimed around 45,000 lives of Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK guerrillas. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels. Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority.

The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds' identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in the country's Kurdish areas,
www.ekurd.net the party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds, ranting them full political freedoms.

The PKK is considered a '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.

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.

Ankara is currently working on a package of fresh reforms to expand the freedoms of the Kurdish community, but has rejected calls to halt military action against the PKK.

Kurds are not recognized as an official minority in Turkey and are denied rights granted to other minority groups. Under EU pressure, Turkey recently granted Kurds limited rights for broadcasts and education in the Kurdish language, but critics say the measures do not go far enough.

The use of the term "Kurdistan" is vigorously rejected due to its alleged political implications by the Republic of Turkey, which does not recognize the existence of a "Turkish Kurdistan" Southeast Turkey. 

Copyright, respective author or news agency, AP |  Agencies      

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