Thursday, June 22, 2006

Anti-terror law quashes peaceful Kurdish protest

From Human Rights Watch:
The trial tomorrow of three Kurdish activists on anti-terrorism charges after they attempted to stage a peaceful protest near the Iraq border calls into question the Turkish leadership’s commitment to human rights reforms, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

To demonstrate that his government stands by the reform process, Prime Minister Erdoğan must ensure that Ibrahim Güçlü, Zeynel Abidin Özalp and Ahmet Sedat Oğur are released. These three Kurdish activists are scheduled to go on trial tomorrow in the eastern city of Diyarbakir. They were arrested on May 2 as they prepared to walk to the border of Iraq to peacefully protest the recent killings of civilians by security forces in southeastern Turkey and express their concern about tensions between the Turkish government and the Kurdish-led administration in northern Iraq.

The men are being charged under the Anti-Terror Law for “making propaganda for the PKK,” a charge that is all the more ironic in light of the fact that Güçlü has repeatedly and publicly condemned violence by the PKK (the Turkish acronym for the Kurdish Workers’ Party, a prominent illegal armed opposition group). All three are officials of Kurt-Der, a Kurdish association that Turkish authorities closed last month for conducting its internal business in the Kurdish language.

The detention and trial of these activists reflect a broader deterioration of Turkey’s human rights record in recent months, Human Rights Watch said. The Turkish leadership must reverse this negative trend and reaffirm its commitment to human rights reforms, underway since 1999 and driven partly by Turkey’s quest for European Union membership.

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Human Rights Watch expressed strong concern about the disproportionate use of force by police dealing with protestors, particularly in the southeast, where 19 people have been killed in demonstrations and disturbances since November. The Turkish government must conduct swift investigations into the widespread allegations of torture and ill-treatment of people detained during violence that erupted after funerals in Diyarbakir of PKK militants killed by Turkish security forces.

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