First Published: 2011-04-21

 

Turkey OKs Kurdish candidates after review

 

Turkey approves election bids of several prominent Kurds after their initial disqualification sparked violent protests.

 

Middle East Online

By Sibel Utku Bila - ANKARA

'Now there should be no problem'

Turkey on Thursday approved the election bids of several prominent Kurds after their initial disqualification sparked violent Kurdish protests that flared for a third day across the southeast.

The Higher Electoral Board (YSK) said it reversed its ruling for six of the seven barred candidates "after a review of fresh court documents presented within the appeal period."

Among those who won a green light to stand in the June 12 parliamentary polls was iconic Kurdish activist Leyla Zana, winner of the European Parliament's human rights award who spent 10 years behind bars before being released in 2004, according to the statement.

They included also two Kurdish members of the outgoing parliament, a prominent politician currently in jail and a well-know leftist intellectual.

Citing past convictions and legal technicalities, the YSK had declared the seven bidders ineligible Monday, setting the scene for street clashes between Kurdish protestors and the police.

The unrest threatened to mar electioneering ahead of the polls and deepen ethnic conflict in EU-hopeful Turkey, which has claimed some 45,000 lives since the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) took up arms in 1984.

The electoral board convened in Ankara to review the appeals as thousands of people took to the streets in the Kurdish-majority southeast for the funeral of a slain protestor and waged pitch battles with the security forces.

A policeman and a school employee were injured in a melee in Batman city when an unidentified person opened fire as police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators hurling petrol bombs and stones, Anatolia news agency reported.

The policeman was hit by three bullets, it said.

In nearby Bismil, an estimated 30,000 people marched at the funeral of a protestor killed in clashes the previous day, chanting slogans in favour of the PKK, an AFP reporter said.

The mourners carried the coffin, wrapped in PKK flags, on their shoulders as masked youths shouting "Revenge, revenge!" escorted the procession.

The crowd was led by prominent Kurdish politicians, including one of the six candidates whom the YSK reinstated.

Unrest broke out as militant youths hurled Molotov cocktails and stones at the security forces, who responded with pepper gas and pressurised water.

There were similar scenes of violence in other towns across the southeast as President Abdullah Gul appealed for peace.

"Nothing can be resolved through violence," Anatolia quoted Gul as saying.

"It turned out the documents were incomplete. Since they have been completed now, there should be no problem," he said, in anticipation of the YSK review.

The disqualifications deepened frustration among the Kurds at a time when their parties already face legal hurdles and many activists remain in jail despite a series of reforms broadening Kurdish rights.

The candidates are backed by Turkey's main Kurdish party, the Peace and Democracy Party, which fielded them as independents to go round a 10-percent electoral threshold that parties are required to pass to enter parliament.

An autopsy report said the 21-year-old protestor in Bismil was killed by a bullet that pierced his left arm and chest.

There was no official word on who fired the fatal shot, but witnesses said police used first plastic bullets and then live rounds against the demonstrators.

Officials said police had responded to an "intensive" hail of petrol bombs, firecrackers and stones, and announced a judicial probe into the killing.

Enraged youths torched the Bismil office of the ruling Justice and Development Party Wednesday night, while a bus driver in Diyarbakir was critically injured when his vehicle caught fire from a petrol bomb.

Meanwhile, three PKK militants were killed and another arrested in fighting with the army in Kahramanmaras province, Anatolia reported Thursday.

 

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