Rights Groups Urge Yilmaz to Condemn Kurd Arrests

ANKARA (Reuters)–Around a dozen Turkish political parties and civil groups on Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz–urging him to speak out against the arrest of the leadership of the country’s main Kurdish party.

"The prime minister should display his reaction openly. His silence and that of other political parties creates an image that this unlawful action was right," Akin Birdal–chairman of Turkey’s Human Rights Association–told a news conference.

A Turkish court last week charged seven top members of the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP)–including its leader Murat Bozlak–with having links with separatist Kurdish rebels.

The seven face a maximum of 15 years in jail.

The letter–posted on Wednesday–said: "We regard charging a constitutionally legal political party with forming an armed group as a blow to the will of a considerable part of society."

Turkey refuses to grant minority rights to its approximately 10 million Kurds–drawing criticism from Western countries concerned by human rights abuses.

The European Union last December put Ankara’s long-standing membership bid on indefinite hold–citing failure to improve its rights record among other reasons

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