RICHARD HOWITT MEP
LABOUR’S MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
News release for immediate use
28 January 2011
EU LEGAL OBSERVERS BARRED FROM TURKEY’S ‘LANDMARK’ TRIAL ON KURDISH RIGHTS
European observers were barred from a Turkish court room today (Friday), after judges denied the right of 102 defendants to use the country’s minority Kurdish language in what are alleged to be political prosecutions.
Representatives of ten EU countries in an official delegation of the Party of European Socialists were denied access to the ‘KCK’ trial at the Sixth Heavy Penalty Supreme Court in Diyarbakir, Turkey, in which they were due to be international observers.
The trial concerns charges of membership of an illegal organisation – code for terrorism in Turkey – but defendants claim they have been arrested for taking part in peaceful political, trade union and human rights activities.
British Labour Euro MP Richard Howitt who is Human Rights Spokesperson for the European Parliament’s Socialist and Democrat Group was one of those barred and says that personal assurances from Turkey’s Minister of Justice received by the group that defendants were able to mount their defence in their mother tongue had proven to be false.
Richard Howitt MEP said:
It is extremely worrying that the one thing we have been able to witness today is a continuing confrontation over the use of the Kurdish language, which has prevented the proper conduct of what are said to be landmark trials.
It is impossible for us to comment on whether or not these are political prosecutions, but it is right for us to protest against the judicial decision to prevent observers from seeing the cases proceed in the defendants’ absence.
The court room was empty, so why not let us in? Justice was not seen to be done.
The Diyarbakir case is one of 15 cases which Turkey’s Kurdish BDP political party claims have targeted its officials, mayors as well as other political activists. International organisations have recorded that the prosecutions result from 1650 arrests, with a majority of defendants having served 17 months in jail awaiting trial. The BDP says it is committed to wholly peaceful means to achieve civil, political and cultural rights for the country’s Kurdish minority, but PKK terrorism particularly in the mainly Kurdish South-East of the country continues to be a serious threat. The BDP is an observer organisation to the Party of European Socialists, including Britain’s Labour Party.