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Turkish court opens case against KCK detainees

ISTANBUL — Daily News with wires | 10/18/2010 12:00:00 AM |

The first hearing of the trial into the alleged urban wing of the outlawed PKK began Monday in Diyarbakır with 151 suspects, 103 of whom are under arrest. (UPDATED)

The first hearing of the trial into the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, began Monday in Diyarbakır with 151 suspects, 103 of whom are under arrest.

The suspects, including a dozen elected mayors from the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, stand accused of being members of an alleged organization called the Kurdistan Communities Union, or KCK.

The 7,578-page indictment charges the defendants with a series of crimes related to challenging the unitary nature of Turkey and aiding a terrorist organization. Prosecutors have demanded between 15 years and life in prison without the possibility of parole for the suspects.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Photos of the handcuffed detainees were circulated among the press by police last year, causing nearly as much criticism as the detentions themselves.

Hatip Dicle, one of the suspects under arrest, demanded that the suspects be allowed to defend themselves in Kurdish during the trial. All suspects responded, saying either "yes" or "present" in Kurdish during a roll-call at the beginning of the hearing.

"The reason we did that was because we want to defend ourselves in our mother tongue," Dicle said.

"Making a defense in your mother tongue is a natural right. People can best express themselves in their native language. We are not pushing this demand on the court. The official language of this country is Turkish," Dicle said. “But we would like the court to show us understanding within the principle of fair trial.”

Diyarbakır Police took extraordinary measures to guarantee security for the trial, stationing 2,000 officers around the province.

Hakkari Deputy Hamit Geylani said lawlessness had reigned supreme for two years “because we cannot say any kind of law norm was being practiced with the arrest of our friends,” he said, calling on people to attend a demonstration against the arrests and detentions.

The BDP also built a tent at a park near the courthouse to host guests coming to follow the trial from other parts of Turkey.

Souhayr Belhassen, president of the International Federation for Human Rights, or FIDH, arrived in Diyarbakır on Sunday alongside other human rights activists and held a press conference at the Diyarbakır Branch of Human Rights Association, or İDH.

Belhassen said the KCK operation was a series of completely arbitrary arrests and added that his federation was worried about the safety of human rights activists in the area.

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