1. "Leading Kurdish politician risks new trial in Turkey", a leading Kurdish politician risks a fresh trial in Turkey on charges of collaborating with armed Kurdish rebels, court sources said Tuesday.
2. "Kurd militants claim responsibility for resort blast", a Kurdish militant group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a blast which tore through a picnic area in a Turkish resort, killing four and injuring 28 people, the Kurdish Firat news agency reported.
3. "Shadows Fall on Killing in Turkey", despite Confession, Key Facts in Judge's Slaying Remain Elusive.
4. "Dilipak: Military Trials Should Be Abolished", on trial at a military tribunal for a published article, journalist Abdurrahman Dilipak says new draft bill limiting military trials of civilians not good enough. "It brings a civilian court system but guards trying a case by Military Criminal Law".
5. "Turkey needs to speed up reforms", Euro MPs in the committee on foreign affairs have discussed the report on Turkey's progress towards accession. The Committee used the opportunity to organise an exchange of views on this topic with Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn.
6. "Turkey province reports 50 honour killings", killings in the name of honour claimed 50 lives in Turkey's southeastern province of Diyarbakir in the past six years, the Diyarbakir Bar Association's Women's Rights Centre said on Tuesday.
1. - AFP - "Leading Kurdish politician risks new
trial in Turkey":
A leading Kurdish politician risks a fresh trial in Turkey on charges of collaborating with armed Kurdish rebels, court sources said Tuesday.
Osman Baydemir, mayor of Diyarbakir, the largest city of the mainly Kurdish southeast, and one of Turkey's most popular Kurdish politicians, will stand trial if a Diyarbakir court accepts an indictment by a prosecutor seeking a 10-year jail sentence.
The prosecution wants a new trial on charges that Baydemir belongs to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Kurdish politicians in Turkey are routinely regarded with suspicion and often seen as instruments of the PKK in its campaign to give self-rule to the Kurds.
Baydemir belongs to the country's main Kurdish party, the Democratic Society Party, which itself is under judicial investigation for alleged links with the rebels.
He has been under investigation since March when he hailed the "courage" of young Kurdish rioters as he tried to reason with them in a bid to end deadly unrest in Diyarbakir that followed the killing of several PKK rebels in clashes with government security forces.
Baydemir said he shared the rioters' grief over the slain rebels and urged them to end violence against the government forces.
The authorities have accused the PKK of orchestrating the riots, which spread from Diyarbakir to other towns in the region and to Istanbul, claiming a total of 16 lives.
Baydemir, 34, has been charged in two other cases, with hearings expected to open soon in Diyarbakir.
In one, he risks up to 10 years in jail along with 55 fellow Kurdish mayors for allegedly supporting the PKK.
The case was opened over a letter they wrote to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, urging him to ignore the Turkish-government's calls to ban a Denmark-based Kurdish television station, which Turkish officials accuse of being a PKK mouthpiece inciting to violence.
In the second case, Baydemir risks one year in jail for allegedly allocating a public ambulance to transport the body of a slain PKK militant.
2. - Reuters - "Kurd militants claim responsibility for resort blast":
ISTANBUL / 27 June 2006 / by Daren Butler
A Kurdish militant group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a blast which tore through a picnic area in a Turkish resort, killing four and injuring 28 people, the Kurdish Firat news agency reported.
An official had said a gas canister appeared to be the cause of Sunday's blast which occurred near a waterfall beauty spot but the Vatan newspaper said security camera footage showed that assailants had planted a bomb.
Police in Ankara and Antalya, the major tourist province in southern Turkey where the incident occurred, as well as local paramilitary police, declined to comment on Tuesday.
The four dead included a Hungarian, a Norwegian, a Russian and a Turk, local media reported.
"The Kurdistan Liberation Hawks (TAK) claimed responsibility for the explosion in Manavgat district ... in a phone call to Firat News Agency," the agency said. It said TAK also reiterated a warning against foreign tourists visiting Turkey.
The claim could not be verified, but TAK has said before it was behind a string of bomb attacks on civilian targets in Turkey.
PACKAGE IN RUBBISH BIN
The blast happened in a park near the Manavgat waterfall about 100 km to the east of the city of Antalya, which is popular with tourists from western Europe and Russia.
Vatan said security cameras in the picnic area had shown a man placing a package in a rubbish bin which exploded 20 minutes later. Another man and a woman who were with him kept watch. It did not specify a source for the report.
Scattered parts from the explosive device have been sent to a forensic laboratory for tests and images of the three people were being compared with archive photographs, the paper said.
Leftist and Islamist militants have also carried out bomb attacks in Turkey on civilians targets.
Scores of soldiers and rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have been killed in clashes amid a rise in violence in the largely Kurdish southeast this year.
More than 30,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK took up arms against the state in 1984 with the aim of establishing an ethnic homeland.
The explosion came amid a slowdown in Turkey's key tourism sector, a vital source of foreign currency.
In May the number of foreign tourists visiting Turkey fell some 17 percent from a year earlier, raising concerns about its prospects of reaching a target of $20 billion tourism revenues this year -- vital to reining in the current account deficit.
Tourists were scared off by an outbreak of bird flu at the start of 2006. A spate of bomb attacks, especially by Kurdish rebels, and worldwide Muslim protests against cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad have also discouraged visitors.
3. - Washington Post - "Shadows Fall on Killing in Turkey":
Despite Confession, Key Facts in Judge's Slaying Remain Elusive
ISTANBUL / 28 June 2006 / by Karl Vick
Six weeks after a gunman killed one of Turkey's highest-ranking judges and wounded four others, the case has descended into the murk that invariably envelops politically potent cases in this country.
Key facts in the case remain elusive. So does the background
of the confessed assailant. Alparslan Arslan appears to have close links
to the Islamic militants deemed a threat to Turkey's secular establishment
-- but also to shadowy ultranationalist groups with a history of using
violence in the name of defending the state.
His declaration underscored the ambiguities and contradictions that fuel competing interpretations of a sensational crime that at first appeared to be straightforward.
"One thing is very clear," said Mehmet Ali Kislali, an author and newspaper columnist. The attack "is the fruit of the general situation in Turkey and can be used for all purposes."
The spin appears to have begun while the smell of cordite still hung in the air May 17. Arslan admitted to shooting the judges because "I was angry at the head-scarf decision" -- the court's stringent new ruling limiting the wearing of Islamic head scarves by public employees.
But the assailant denied shouting "God is greatest" and "I am a soldier of Allah" during the attack, as was widely reported the day of the shootings. The judiciary official who quoted the remarks to reporters turned out not to have been in the room at the time.
The following day, thousands of citizens surged onto capital streets vowing to defend the secular nature of the Turkish republic. The chief of Turkey's military urged more demonstrations.
But in the following days the picture of Arslan fogged over. In his car was a press card issued by an ultranationalist press agency, according to Turkish news accounts. As a lawyer, he had represented the former head of another ultranationalist group.
Rumors surfaced that Arslan was in frequent phone contact in the hours before the shooting with a shadowy former military officer who was taken into custody in an Istanbul hospital, where he was being treated for a knife wound in the chest, possibly self-inflicted. The man was later freed.
"If you go into details about those who seem to be involved, you become confused," Kislali said. "Otherwise, it seems very obvious. You can say very easily that it's the work of Islamists -- but, but . . ."
But things are not always what they seem in Turkey, as a hearing Tuesday in a different case demonstrated.
Tuesday's proceeding arose from the events of November 1996, when a Mercedes crashed in the town of Susurluk. The passengers turned out to be a senior police official, a feudal lord, a former beauty queen and one of Turkey's most notorious gangsters, who was found to have a half-dozen diplomatic passports and a trunk full of pistols and silencers. The crash confirmed suspicions that elements within the Turkish state consort with criminals in the name of protecting the state.
"The debate in our country is about who has sovereignty," said Fikri Saglar, who served on the parliamentary commission that investigated the Susurluk crash. "The parliament says sovereignty is with the people, that in a democratic system people vote for their rulers.
"The military-bureaucratic state believes that sovereignty belongs to them, and the people in their ignorance make wrong choices that endanger the state."
The tension has played out publicly since 2002, when Turks elected a new government whose proudly Muslim identity is regarded as a threat by Turkey's secular establishment. The wives of senior elected officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have been barred from official ceremonies because they observe Muslim teachings to cover their hair.
But the shooting of the judges over a ruling on head scarves brought tensions to a visceral new level.
"Murderers!" mourners shouted at cabinet ministers from Erdogan's Justice and Development Party who showed up at the slain judge's funeral.
At the same time, questions about Arslan's background suggested the hand of the "deep state," the term commonly used in Turkey to describe forces assumed to be at play when the facts around political violence recede into shadow.
"A treacherous gang has emerged from behind the bloody plot," Erdogan told a party caucus. "This attack targeted our country's ever-increasing democratic progress."
Saglar said the shootings may well have been engineered to provoke a public reaction against Erdogan's government. No avowedly secular party has risen to challenge its two-thirds majority in parliament, leaving open the way for Erdogan's ascension to Turkey's presidency, an office of particular significance to secularists.
"For me it is clear that behind this attack is what we call the deep state," Saglar said. "I believe the aim is to create a major reaction in the society by an attack on one of the major institutions in the state and to turn the society against the current government."
The episode also highlighted the weakness of Turkey's embattled judiciary. The lax security at the court on the day of the shooting was emblematic. Poorly funded and derelict, the typical Turkish courtroom summons all the majesty of a bus depot.
Critics contend that the neglect is intended in part to keep the system from developing the independence democracy requires. The pliability of Turkish courts was widely noted in January when Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish ultranationalist who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981, was released from prison. After an international outcry, a Turkish court ordered him jailed again eight days later.
4. - Bianet - "Dilipak: Military Trials Should Be Abolished":
On trial at a military tribunal for a published article, journalist Abdurrahman Dilipak says new draft bill limiting military trials of civilians not good enough. "It brings a civilian court system but guards trying a case by Military Criminal Law".
ISTANBUL / 26 June 2006 / by Erol Onderoglu
Journalist Abdurrahman Dilipak who is on trial at a military tribunal for a published article has said a new draft bill approved by the Parliament Justice Commission and bringing limitations on the jurisdiction of military courts over civilian defendants is not good enough.
Dilipak told bianet in an exclusive interview that the new bill which changes the criminal procedures and jurisdiction of courts would allow for civilians to be tried at civilian courts but they would still be tried under the Military Criminal Law.
Predicting that the bill which was prepared with reference to United Nations and European Union norms would be rushed through Parliament, Dilipak said the main opposition Republic Peoples Party (CHP) was to bring new proposals to the bill and President Sezer was expected to pass it without a problem.
Dilipak said the draft was prepared in agreement with the military and addressed the required changes in the judicial system for EU integration only in a limited way and added, in reality, all military trials should be abolished.
Analyzing the draft , journalist Dilipak said it foresaw the trial of civilians in normal courts provided they did not commit an offence of military nature but the civilian courts are authorized, in the trial of civilian defendants, to refer to the Military Criminal Law. Once the draft bill is passed by parliament it will go into force after being ratified by the President.
5. - ABhaber - "Turkey needs to speed up reforms":
BRUSSELS / 27 June 2006
Euro MPs in the committee on foreign affairs have discussed the report on Turkey's progress towards accession. The Committee used the opportunity to organise an exchange of views on this topic with Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn.
Referring to the Ankara Protocol which provides for the extension of Turkey's Association Agreement with the EU to the ten new member states, including Cyprus, Rehn said that "if Turkey wants to avoid major problems in the autumn, it must keep its word (...) and comply with the obligations emanating from the Association Agreement and the Accession Partnership. Failure to do so will impact negatively on the negotiations."
Rehn also mentioned that the European Commission will publish its report on Turkey's progress in the autumn. He urged Turkey to take steps for the normalisation of relations with Cyprus, such as no longer vetoing Cyprus's membership of international organisations. The EU, on its side, also needed to do more, he said, to end the isolation of the northern part of Cyprus and permit it to trade directly with the EU.
The Commissioner noted progress, however, with respect to human rights he said: "NGOs tend to agree that overall human rights violations have decreased across the country." But he was concerned about freedom of expression and called for drastic changes to article 301 of the Turkish constitution.
Rehn was seriously worried about unrest in south-eastern Turkey, unequivocally condemning the PKK for its attacks. However, a government policy concerned with security alone was not the answer, he said.
Greater efforts were needed to improve the social-economic situation and Kurdish cultural rights, the Commissioner insisted, while the Semdinli bookshop case raised questions regarding the independence of the judiciary.
Socialists Pasqualina Napolitano and Emine Bozkurt objected to the "tone of voice" with which Turkey has recently been tackled on its perceived shortcomings, while Commissioner Rehn said his objective was to continue to encourage Turkey to stay on the reform track.
Meanwhile, socialist Group vice-presidents Jan Marinus Wiersma and Hannes Swoboda said: 'The progress made to date by the Turkish Government should be acknowledged. But recently the pace has slowed and needs to be speeded-up again.
'We expect clear signs of pro-European policies from the Turkish Government. We are particularly concerned at developments in south-east Turkey. The recent violence there has to be condemned unequivocally. We call on all parties to pursue peaceful solutions only. We also call on the Turkish Government to honour the commitments of the Ankara Protocol which extends its customs agreement with all EU member states including Cyprus. This is a precondition if negotiations are to be continued. If not then we will be faced with stalemate", stressed Mr. Swoboda and Mr Wiersma.
6. - Alarab Online - "Turkey province reports 50 honour killings":
28 June 2006
Killings in the name of honour claimed 50 lives in Turkey's southeastern province of Diyarbakir in the past six years, the Diyarbakir Bar Association's Women's Rights Centre said on Tuesday.
Women's rights are one of several sticking points in talks between Turkey and the European Union, which Ankara wants to join, and Turkey has toughened its laws to make sure those guilty of such crimes face life sentences.
In a new penal code passed last year, Turkey toughened its laws against so-called honour killings.
Judges who traditionally gave lenient sentences in such cases can no longer consider honour a mitigating factor in murder.
The women's rights centre, part of an association of lawyers, said the 50 deaths led to 59 court cases in the conservative and underdeveloped province of the southeast.
Activists say honour killings are particularly prevalent in the mainly Kurdish southeast, which is generally more conservative, and poorer, than western Turkey.
While some women are killed for being perceived as bringing shame on their family with extramarital sex, or being raped, a woman who is merely the subject of rumour or speculation can also become a victim.
Farda Miran of the Bar Association's Women's Rights Centre said the figures could be higher as exact numbers of honour killings are impossible to find as law enforcement does not always penetrate the dozens of small villages in the area.