Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Turkey Blasted for Rights Abuses in Crackdown on Kurd Separatists

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Turkey Blasted for Rights Abuses in Crackdown on Kurd Separatists

Article excerpt

ALI ASLAN, a Turkish activist, says he suffered eight years of government harassment, imprisonment, and torture. Mr. Aslan says his only "crimes" were union organizing, distributing political publications, and speaking out against human rights abuses.

But under Turkey's powerful security laws, he was detained three times and spent nearly two years in prison.

Aslan's case is not unique. Turkey's antiterrorism law prohibits activities promoting separatism and other policies opposed to the state. It has used this law, and its wide interpretation, to detain hundreds of political prisoners in the past year, according to the human rights group Amnesty International.

Turkey has cracked down on people either speaking out for or on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Marxist group that is fighting to create a separatist Kurd state.

Just last week, eight Kurdish members of parliament were given three to 15-year prison sentences for speaking out on behalf of the Kurdish people.

Turkey has been sharply criticized for mistreating prisoners, for failing to permit free expression, and for targeting civilians in the battle against Kurdish separatists.

John Shattuck, US assistant secretary of state for human rights and labor, visited Turkey in October, and has said he is concerned about growing suppression of human rights in Turkey.

"Turkey is not like other Western democratic countries," says Akin Birdal, director of the Ankara-based Turkish Human Rights Association - one of Turkey's leading human rights advocacy groups. "There is no right to think, no right to write, and no right to speak your mind."

"I can't say human rights conditions are anything to be proud of," admits Hizir Eksi, a high-level official in the State Ministry of Human Rights in Ankara.

Mr. Eksi blames the bloody separatist insurgency in Turkey's southeast provinces for his country's poor human rights record. …

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