Turkey jails Kurdish MP for 'terrorist' propaganda

Kurdish refugees say Turkey denied them return visas


A Kurdish member of Turkey's parliament was sentenced to 18 months in jail Tuesday for "terrorist" propaganda, according to court records seen by AFP while a group of Kurdish refugees said they were denied entry visas.

The judge ruled that Aysel Tugluk "spread the propaganda of a terrorist organization" in remarks favoring the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has led a bloody 25-year rebellion against Ankara and is listed as a terrorist group, the document said.

A lawyer for Tugluk, who belongs to the Democratic Society Party (DTP), said they would appeal the sentence, handed down by a court in Diyarbakir, the largest city of the Kurdish-majority southeast.

In a speech made at a rally in Diyarbakir in 2006 before she was elected parliament member, Tugluk praised a declaration signed by tens of thousands of Kurds upholding jailed PKK chieftain Abdullah Ocalan as their leader.

She also said PKK demands should be taken into account in efforts to end the Kurdish conflict.

The court sent the ruling to parliament, which, under Turkish law, has to lift a deputy's judicial immunity before any prison term can take effect.

The DTP, Turkey's main Kurdish party, is routinely accused of supporting the PKK and even serving as its legal political arm.

The DTP itself is currently on trial at the Constitutional Court for links with the PKK, facing the risk of being banned.

The PKK took up arms against Ankara in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.

Entry denied

Meanwhile, a group of Kurdish refugees said on Tuesday Turkey has denied them entry visas they needed to return to the country under government reforms aimed at expanding Kurdish rights.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to expand Kurdish rights as Ankara looks to end a 25-year-old conflict between the state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla group.

But at the weekend Erdogan said his government wants to halt the return of Kurdish refugees after a group of separatist militants returning from Iraq received a festive welcome.

In Brussels, 15 members of the Kurdish Peace and Democratic Solution Group said they also wanted to return, but were denied necessary travel documents.

The Turkish consulate in Brussels was not immediately available for comment.

"The government's present attitude is blocking the way for the peaceful and democratic solution of the Kurdish issue," Ismet Cem, leader of the group, told a new conference.

"The ruling AK party government is claiming that we created a crisis of confidence," Cem said. "On the contrary, the government and state forces are responsible for causing a crisis of confidence by disturbing, provoking and sabotaging the process."

Erdogan's AK Party has launched an initiative that is expected to give greater freedom to the 12 million-strong Kurdish minority in Turkey's southeast.

The reforms are important for advancing Turkey's application for membership of the European Union, and responds to demands that Ankara meet the bloc's human rights criteria.

The PKK, based in northern Iraq, took up arms in 1984 to carve out an ethnic homeland in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.

The conflict has severely hampered economic development in the region, which lags far behind relatively prosperous western Turkey.

The government's present attitude is blocking the way for the peaceful and democratic solution of the Kurdish issue

Ismet Cem, leader Kurdish Peace and Democratic Solution Group

Turkish soldiers kill five PKK rebels

In related news, Turkish soldiers killed five Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in one of the biggest skirmishes since the government announced plans to address Kurdish grievances in July, sources said on Tuesday.

The clashes late on Monday in a remote region in eastern Turkey came days after a group of PKK rebels surrendered after returning from neighbouring Iraq to support Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's reform process.

Operations against the PKK continued on Tuesday, and the army had deployed more soldiers, backed by helicopter gunships to the region, military sources said on condition their names were not used.

Erdogan in July launched his so-called Kurdish initiative, backed by the European Union, which calls for expanding political and cultural rights for the country's estimated 12 million Kurds. The reforms are aimed at helping end a decades-old conflict which has killed more than 40,000 people.