A law enabling Kurdish suspects to speak their mother tongue in court has been approved by the Turkish Parliament after two days of heated debate. The new law will allow suspects at hearings in the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) trial who prefer to defend themselves in Kurdish to request a translator from the court.
During the long discussions Kurdish representatives of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) engaged in a scuffle with deputies of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has vocally opposed the new measures.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies reportedly made statements that caused controversies during the yesterday’s debates. The CHP’s deputy from İzmir, Birgül Ayman Güler and the BDP’s parliamentary group deputy chairman, Pervin Buldan, engaged in a verbal scuffle that led to an interruption of the parliamentary session. Güler reportedly said, “The Turkish nation cannot be equal with the Kurdish nation,” leading to strong reactions from inside and outside her party.
The arrangement is part of a 13-article amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code (CMK) and to the Law on Execution of Penalties and Security Precautions. The amendment also outlines a chance for married prisoners to conduct conjugal visits with their spouses without the presence of prison staff from anywhere between three to 24 hours once every three months.
In the fall of 2012, over 700 inmates staged a 69-day-hunger strike in several Turkish prisons, demanding an end to the isolation of the imprisoned leader of the outlawedKurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan. Hunger strikers also called for an end to restrictions against the use of Kurdish in courts and in the educational system. The legal case against the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the PKK, has been deadlocked as courts have rejected defendants’ demands to speak Kurdish when giving their defense.
Inmates ended their hunger strike after Öcalan issued a plea Nov. 17, a week after the government submitted the legal arrangement to Parliament. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at the time that the law proposal should not be considered a concession to strikers, noting that the AKP had promised this right during their party congress on Sept. 30. Some analysts and reports say the ongoing process involving officials in talks with Öcalan for the purpose of drawing an end to the conflict between security forces and the PKK actually began after Öcalan called on hundreds of PKK inmates to end their hunger strike.