Accessibility links

Breaking News

Trials Bring About Questions of Turkey's Commitment to Kurdish Rights

The trial of 12 kurdish mayors along with scores of other officials of the main pro Kurdish BDP party was adjourned until Wednesday. The men are accused of being part of the KCK, an umbrella organization of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. The case is now casting a shadow over the government's commitment to a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict for greater Kurdish rights.

Controversy has surrounded the investigation since it started two years ago.

Ertugral Kurkcu, a member of parliament for the pro Kurdish BDP, says the case is politically charged.

"This KCK (trial) is one of the most brutal attempts to inflict a blow on BDP politics using the judiciary mechanism. Many of them are elected people, many of them are trade union leaders, all influential politicians. They have no relation with violence," Kurkcu said.

Critics point out that the KCK arrests started weeks after the ruling AKP suffered heavy losses in 2009 local elections to the pro Kurdish movement.

But prosecutors claim members of the country's legal Kurdish movement are part of a terrorist conspiracy to support the Kurdish rebel group the PKK, which is fighting the Turkish state for greater minority rights.

With over 2,000 people being jailed as part of the investigation, concerns over the scale and nature of the investigation has spread to the European Union.

Richard Howitt is the spokesman the socialist group on Turkish affairs in the European parliament.

"7,500 pages on the indictment list, but not one mention of any weapon or any violence seems to suggest it's a series of political trials against Kurdish activists, that what they say maybe true," Howitt said.

But the ruling AK party accuse the pro Kurdish BDP of having links with the PKK, citing its refusal to call the rebels terrorists. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by both the United States and European Union.

Volkan Bozkir, head of the Turkish parliamentary foreign affairs committee for the ruling AKP, strongly denies such accusations and defends the independence of the judiciary.

"It is not because they have written something in a newspaper or because they have said something. But they are part of a terrorist organization. They have been helping those terrorists who are killing young people,” Bozkir said.

Bozkir claims his party has been in the forefront of delivering greater Kurdish rights, including in the fields of education and broadcasting.

The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has committed himself to introducing a new constitution that he says will address many of the grievances of the country's Kurdish minority.

But political scientist Cengiz Aktar says the ongoing trial undermines the legitimacy of governments efforts.

"It's purely a political trial, and the government has no strategy on the solution on the Kurdish problem and plays only through tactics. This is yet another tactic," Aktar said,

The KCK trials come as fighting between the army and the Kurdish rebel group the PKK continues to intensify.

Pro Kurdish deputy Kurkcu warns that the ongoing KCK trial and continued arrests, serves to only provide more recruits for the PKK.

"This is one of the reasons why young people are going to the mountains [to join the PKK]. Because this example shows them that if they continue with daily politics, they end up going to prison," Kurkcu said.

But there appears no let up. Last month, the first convictions in the KCK investigation were handed down with five defendants receiving in total 57 years in jail.