Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mayors risk jail in language row

Mayors risk jail in language row
Tuesday, July 31, 2007

DIYARBAKIR – TDN with wire dispatches
Prosecutors are seeking jail terms of up to three years for two mayors and 17 councilmen in southeastern Turkey who introduced Kurdish and other languages in office, court officials said yesterday, the Agence France-Presse reported.
The accused include Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir and Abdullah Demirbaş, who was removed from his post as mayor of Diyarbakır's multi-ethnic Sur municipality last month after the city council in January allowed the use of Kurdish, Armenian, Arabic, Assyrian and English in municipal services. The charge sheet accused the defendants of "abuse of office" and sought prison sentences ranging from one to three years. The trial of Baydemir, Demirbaş and the 17 city councilmen who voted for the municipal bill is scheduled to begin in November.
Diyarbakir's governor asked a district court to scrap the multilingual services. According to the Constitution, Turkish is the sole official language and no other languages can be used in government offices and municipalities. Ankara has in recent years legalized broadcasts in Kurdish and allowed private institutions to teach the Kurdish language. The law, however, still requires Kurds to use only Turkish in official communications and politics.

Turkish as a foreign language:
Meanwhile, a group of deputies supported by the Democratic Society Party (DTP) in the elections, including the former head of DTP Ahmet Türk, entered “Turkish” as the foreign language they could speak when filling out their information forms to register in Parliament, media reports said. The short biographies of the deputies were not put on the Web site of Parliament. Meanwhile, the biographies of other deputies who registered on Sunday with Parliament were not launched on the Web site either, so as not to give the impression that only the DTP-supported deputies were left out, the daily Radikal reported.
Ahmet Türk said the entry was an error, not ill-intentioned, daily Milliyet reported. Türk went to Parliament and corrected his form. Parliament officials stated that as Turkish is the only official language in Turkey, it could not be referred to as a “foreign language” in Parliament.
The former Democratic Party (DEP) deputies wrote “Kurdish” as the foreign language they could speak on the information form in 1991, but this information was not included in Parliament records


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