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 Kurdish MPs boycott parliament after Turkey strips prominent Kurd of parliament seat

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Kurdish MPs boycott parliament after Turkey strips prominent Kurd of parliament seat   23.6.2011   





June 23, 2011

ANKARA, — Newly elected Kurdish lawmakers announced Thursday they would boycott Turkey's parliament, infuriated over an electoral board decision to strip one of them of his seat.

The move raised the prospect of fresh tensions between Ankara and the Kurds in the wake of already renewed violence and bloodshed that marred the run-up to the June 12 elections, threatening to re-ignite a conflict that has already claimed some 45,000 lives.

A spokesman for the lawmakers slammed the ruling to strip jailed Kurdish politician Hatip Dicle of his seat as "the last straw" in "operations and obstructions" targeting efforts for a peaceful end to the Kurdish conflict.

"We will not go to parliament until the government and the parliament                

Newly elected Kurdish lawmakers announced Thursday they would boycott Turkey's parliament, infuriated over an electoral board decision to strip one of them of his seat.

take a concrete step to remedy this injustice and provide opportunities for a settlement by opening the way for democratic politics," Serafettin Elci, one of the lawmakers, told reporters.

He spoke after an emergency meeting that the deputies and officials of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which is backing them, held in Diyarbakir, the largest city of the Kurdish-majority southeast.

Elci urged the ruling Justice and Development Party, which took over Dicle's seat, to "immediately return the stolen seat to its owner."

The new parliament is to convene Tuesday for an oath-taking ceremony.

BDP-backed candidates won 36 of the 550 parliamentary seats in the elections, a record number for Kurdish nationalists.

The BDP fielded them as independents to get around a 10-percent national threshold that parties are required to pass to enter parliament.

However the Higher Electoral Board ruled late Tuesday that Dicle, 57, was not eligible to run in the elections because of a 20-month jail sentence on terror-related charges.

Dicle, in prison since 2010 awaiting trial in a separate case, had been expected to be freed to assume his seat.

The legal jumble arose from the fact that Dicle's sentence was upheld just four days before the polls, when the list of candidates had been confirmed.

His was convicted for a speech deemed "propaganda for an armed terrorist organisation" -- a reference to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK),
www.ekurd.netwhich has led a bloody separatist insurgency in the southeast since 1984.

Five other Kurds who were elected on the BDP-backed list remain in prison, awaiting trial on charges of collaborating with the PKK.

Their lawyers have initiated legal procedures to secure their release in line with a precedent dating back to 2007 when a Kurdish activist awaiting trial in jail was freed after she won a parliamentary seat.

Piling up pressure on Ankara, the PKK last week put forward tough conditions for the extension of a unilateral truce it declared last August.

Eager to boost its EU bid, Turkey has notably broadened Kurdish freedoms in recent years: they can now broadcast in Kurdish, teach their mother tongue in private courses and use it in political life.

The Kurds, however, have upped the stakes, demanding constitutional recognition and autonomy.

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.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous 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.

Copyright ©, respective author or news agency, AFP | ekurd.net | Agencies     

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