World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkey's parliament passed a law late on Thursday allowing defendants to speak Kurdish in court, addressing a key demand of Kurdish politicians as Ankara seeks to advance peace talks with the jailed PKK leader.
Kurdish and nationalist deputies clashed verbally and nearly came to blows during a tense debate over a reform seen aimed at breaking a deadlock in trials of hundreds of people accused of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group.
Courts have rejected suspects' efforts to use Kurdish in defending against charges of membership in a PKK umbrella group. The new legislation will allow defendants to speak in their mother tongue, if they speak it better than they do Turkish.
The court defence reform was among the demands of hundreds of jailed PKK militants who late last year staged a hunger strike which was ended by the intervention of their leader Abdullah Ocalan, in prison on the island of Imrali, south of Istanbul.
Intelligence agency officials have held talks with Ocalan, establishing a framework for a deal under which the PKK would stop attacking, withdraw from Turkish soil and disarm, according to media reports. In return, the government would carry out reforms boosting Kurdish minority rights.
Deputies from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK Party and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) voted in favour of the new law, while other opposition deputies voted against.
Last Mod: 25 Ocak 2013, 11:13