Nevruz demonstrations turn violent, while 7 policemen killed in SE

Kurdistan Workers’ Party sympathizers clashed with police in the southern province of Mersin, where they were not allowed to celebrate the spring festival of Nevruz.(PHOTO CİHAN, Hasan Küçük)

March 25, 2012, Sunday/ 12:28:00

Violence and provocation reached a dangerous level during Nevruz celebrations -- a spring festival mostly celebrated in Turkey by Kurds and usually starting on March 21 -- that started on Sunday and lasted until Wednesday.

The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) had requested permission to organize Nevruz celebrations on Sunday March 18 instead of on the day of Nevruz itself, March 21; but authorities in İstanbul and the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır refused to grant authorization for Sunday, saying celebrations should be held on Wednesday.

However, demonstrators, mostly Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) supporters, attempted to defy the ban on Sunday. Hundreds of demonstrators, some armed with homemade bombs and firebombs, clashed with the police in Diyarbakır, resulting in two injuries.

In İstanbul, protesters barricaded roads near Kazlıçeşme Square in Zeytinburnu and threw stones at security forces as police used tear gas and high-pressure water hoses to disperse the group.

The BDP’s Hacı Zengin died during the illegal demonstration on Sunday, possibly because of an asthma attack triggered by tear gas used by the police.

Illegal demonstrations to celebrate Nevruz continued on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and tension continued in İstanbul where some residents attacked the protestors on Sunday.

There were also claims that police threw a tear gas canister into a BDP bus carrying independent deputies Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tuğluk and BDP Diyarbakır deputy Nursel Aydoğan.

 Meanwhile, five Turkish special operations police officers were killed in clashes with the PKK on Cudi Mountain in the southeastern province of Şırnak on Wednesday. Another policeman was killed in clashes in Şırnak on Thursday, and another was killed in a forest bordering Bitlis and Siirt on Friday. Nine terrorists were killed during the clashes, while another was captured.


March 17, Saturday

A previously unknown killer was involved in the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, the shooter claimed about a month after a court ruling sentenced him to 22 years in prison and released all the other suspects. Ogün Samast, who was still a minor when he shot Dink in broad daylight five years ago, wrote a letter to the Taraf daily from his cell in Kandıra Prison. According to the letter, which was published on Saturday, he met with someone about three months before the assassination. “We had tea with this person. I will explain later who this person is and his connection to the murder,” he wrote. Samast said he would be able to talk about the involvement of this mysterious third person only after his appeal process in the Supreme Court of Appeals is completed.

March 18, Sunday

The northwestern province of Çanakkale commemorated the 97th anniversary of the Çanakkale naval victory with various commemorative activities on March 18.

A student who hurled an egg at Turkish European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış in December faces injury charges that could result in up to five years in jail.

Yemeni Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakul Karman, a key figure in the revolt that brought down President Ali Abdullah Saleh, urged Syrian refugees in Turkey not to lose hope, saying their president’s reign would also come to an end. “The whole world knows you are right. The blood you have spilled will not go to waste, God willing. You will return to freedom,” Karman told a crowd of refugees inside the Boynuyogun camp, one of several in Turkey’s southern province of Hatay.

March 19, Monday

The number of Syrians who have fled the ongoing violence in their country and sought refuge in Turkey reached 16,446, according to data released by the Prime Ministry’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD).

Turkey denied claims that it has been financing the Palestinian political group Hamas. A Foreign Ministry official also told Today’s Zaman that reports claiming Hamas had sought financing from Turkey were not true. “Neither has Turkey supplied financing to Hamas, nor has there been any such request from the organization,” the official added, speaking under the condition of anonymity. During an official visit to Tehran by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Feb. 12, Haniyeh and Iranian officials in Tehran could not come to a compromise over some issues, which caused Tehran to stall financial support for the Palestinian organization, Israel’s Haaretz daily reported on Monday.

Publisher Ragıp Zarakolu and Professor Büşra Ersanlı are facing lengthy prison terms on charges of leading and aiding a terrorist organization, according to an indictment sent to an İstanbul court on Friday. Ersanlı, who was a member of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) constitutional commission, faces up to 22.5 years in jail for leading a terrorist organization, while the prosecutor is seeking up to 15 years for Zarakolu on charges of aiding a terrorist group.

An overwhelming majority of Turks think Turkey’s next president should be incumbent President Abdullah Gül, according to the results of a recent survey. The survey, conducted by the Konsensus polling company for the Habertürk daily, has revealed that 48.8 percent of Turks think Turkey’s next president should be Gül. The results of the survey, which was conducted across the country between Feb. 23 and March 3, were published by the Habertürk daily on Monday. The survey also revealed support for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s presidency remained at 16.9 percent, while 13.3 percent of the respondents supported Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

KONDA polling company General Manager Bekir Ağırdır said support for the Ergenekon investigation among Turks is around 60 percent. “When we ask people whether they think the Ergenekon trial is the trial of people who are really guilty, or a government attempt to suppress its opponents, around 60 percent of the people say Ergenekon exists. The public believes the people tried as part of Ergenekon are really guilty and they should be tried,” Ağırdır said.

A police officer who appeared in a highly controversial a photograph with the killer of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink has been promoted. The photograph, released to the media shortly after the murder, showed Ogün Samast -- the shooter -- standing next to then-Samsun Police Department’s Public Security Unit head Yakup Kurtaran and a soldier with a Turkish flag in the background. The image was allegedly taken at the Samsun Police Department where Samast was detained before being brought to İstanbul.

March 20, Tuesday

The process of drafting a new and democratic constitution for Turkey was discussed at a meeting in the European Parliament on Tuesday, which was jointly organized by the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) and the Friends of Turkey.

The United States will spare Japan and 10 European Union nations from US financial sanctions because they have significantly reduced purchases of Iranian crude oil, but not allies such as Turkey and South Korea, US officials said. The decision is a victory for the 11 countries, whose banks need not fear being possibly cut off from the US financial system under new US sanctions, designed to pressure Iran to end its nuclear program.

Five Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists were captured in a joint operation conducted by Turkish gendarmes and peshmerga forces from Iraq’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in northern Iraq on the border with Turkey. According to the Sabah daily, peshmerga units secured the region while Turkish gendarmes conducted the operation.

The top judicial watchdog introduced new criteria for assessing whether legal professionals are fit for promotion -- a move that was highly appreciated by legal commentators. Before making decisions as to the promotion of judges and prosecutors, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) will examine whether the decisions of the judge or prosecutor have been made in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

March 21, Wednesday

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) parliamentary group deputy chairwoman Emine Ülker Tarhan and Akif Hamzaçebi filed an appeal at the Constitutional Court to annul a law on presidential elections that stipulates that incumbent President Abdullah Gül will be allowed to serve only one seven-year term as president.

The Supreme Court of Appeals Prosecutor’s Office asked a high court to uphold a prison sentence of five years handed down to former national police chief and politician Mehmet Ağar. The former police chief was sentenced on charges of establishing a criminal organization. His trial concerned a car accident in 1996 that exposed links between the Turkish state, the criminal underworld and Turkish security forces, often referred to as the Susurluk scandal.

A recently released Justice Ministry report seeks the arrest of 18 inmates and six prison officials on charges of abusing minors in Adana’s Pozantı Juvenile Detention Center, which recently came into the limelight after allegations of rape of minors by adult inmates surfaced in the media. The report concerns allegations of violence and sexual abuse of minors by adult inmates in the juvenile detention center in Adana. Revealing only the conclusion to the media, the Justice Ministry sent the full text to the Pozantı Public Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor’s office included the report in the investigation folder for the Pozantı rape claims.

The Education Ministry changed a regulation to allow children from Armenian, Greek and Jewish minority groups who are not Turkish citizens to be educated in minority schools. The change, made to the regulation on special education institutions, involved the removal of the statement, “Only children of Turkish citizens can go to those schools.”

March 22, Thursday

Former Chief of General Staff, retired Gen. Hilmi Özkök, was the target of a planned assassination by pro-coup generals within the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in 2004, which was prevented when US officials in Baghdad discovered the plan and notified Turkish authorities about it, according to a recently published book, “Pirus -- Devşirme Orduların Son Savaşı” (Pyrrhic -- Last War of Devşirme Armies), which is co-authored by journalists Mehmet Baransu and Tuncay Opçin.

The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court decided to stop the trial of a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) official -- a suspect in an anti-government websites case -- due to a recent amendment made to the MİT law which stipulated that permission must be secured from the prime minister before MİT staff can be investigated.

Turkey criticized a US report on religious freedoms that listed Turkey among the world’s worst violators of religious freedoms, saying it considers the document “null and void.”

Parliament’s Justice Commission approved a bill seeking to amend the Law on Conditional Release, which regulates the conditions of a prisoner’s release, in a move that could pave the way for the release of 15,000 convicts. With the amendment, roughly 15,000 prisoners currently held in open prisons and who have only a year left to complete their sentences would be released on probation.

Another police officer and seven members of the terrorist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) were killed in a second day of clashes between security forces and the PKK in the southeastern province of Şırnak, following violence surrounding the spring festival of Nevruz, mostly celebrated by Kurds in Turkey.

March 23, Friday

A senior Turkish government official claimed that Turkish officials have been meeting with Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq to put in place a comprehensive strategy to diffuse the threat posed by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Syrian Kurdish community in the face of escalating violence in Turkey’s southern neighbor.

The family of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist who was assassinated outside his newspaper’s office in 2007 and most of whose murderers were allowed to walk free following a court ruling last month, demanded a new investigation into various officers with the police and gendarmerie forces who seem to be implicated in Dink’s death according to a probe conducted by the State Audit Institution.

The Ministry of Health revoked Hacettepe University’s license to carry out composite tissue transplant operations after a patient died three days after undergoing a quadruple-limb transplant at the hospital.

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