Amid brawls, Parliament endorses law to allow Kurdish in courts

Amid brawls, Parliament endorses law to allow Kurdish in courts

A brawl broke out between lawmakers in Parliament in Ankara on Wednesday. (Photo: Today's Zaman, Ali Ünal)

January 23, 2013, Wednesday/ 21:40:00

Parliament adopted a law late on Wednesday to allow suspects to use their mother tongue in court when delivering defense statements.

The law will provide for the use of defendants' first languages in courts, and follows a lengthy campaign by Parliament's only Kurdish political party and rights activists, who together have demanded the right for defendants to use languages other than Turkish to defend themselves in court.

During heated discussions of the proposed law on Wednesday, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chairman Oktay Vural alleged that the proposal resulted from an agreement reached in the 2009-2011 Oslo talks between the government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorist organization. He said his party would never accept any dictate from the terrorist organization nor allow the bill to pass in Parliament.

Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Muş deputy Sırrı Sakık reacted angrily to Vural's speech during the session. Another deputy from the MHP then got involved in the discussion, with an incensed response to Sakık.

Later on in the session, ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) parliamentary group deputy chairman Ahmet Aydın delivered a speech in favor of the bill.

His speech was interrupted by MHP deputies and an altercation broke out as a deputy from the MHP accosted Aydın. Another brawl erupted between BDP deputies and those from the MHP. What started off as a quarrel turned into an open scuffle between the lawmakers.

In the run-up to the session, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had urged his party's deputies not to waste any time in passing the law.

The law makes changes to the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK) and to the Law on the Execution of Punitive and Security Measures. With the changes, suspects will be able to use the language in which they feel they can express themselves best when submitting their defense. The state will cover the expenses for courtroom translators.