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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 18:23 GMT
Turkey grants new political rights
Police clash with supporters of prison hunger strikers in Ankara
Turkey is under EU pressure to reform
The Turkish parliament has passed a series of laws easing restrictions on freedom of speech, but Kurdish and human rights campaigners say the measures are inadequate.

It is the second package of democratisation reforms to have been passed this year, giving legal force to constitutional amendments announced in 2001.

The reforms are intended to help Turkey's entry into the European Union - but several key restrictions remain in place.

Some 100 people were arrested in Istanbul on Wednesday after they petitioned the government to allow education in the Kurdish language, which Turkey still refuses to do.

EU demands

Under the new laws, criminal suspects will have greater access to defence lawyers, while police and security services who are found to have tortured suspects will be held personally financially liable for some of the damages.

Bulent Ecevit
Prime Minister Ecevit passed the changes with the help of opposition parties
The banning of political parties has been made more difficult - instead of immediate closure, the courts can now cut off their state funding as a first step.

Islamic and Kurdish parties have been banned in the past.

But there was no change to the ban on broadcasting and education in Kurdish - a key demand of the European Union.

The death penalty also remains in force.

The three-party governing coalition is at present unable to agree on how or when to change these laws.

The BBC's Johnny Dymond
"It has been referred to as a mini-democratisation package"
See also:

07 Feb 02 | Europe
Activists reject Turkish reforms
03 Oct 01 | Europe
Turkey aims for EU membership
10 Jan 01 | Europe
Shadow hangs over Turkish jails
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