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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 July, 2003, 23:41 GMT 00:41 UK
Turkey approves amnesty for Kurds
By Firdevs Robinson
BBC correspondent in Ankara

PKK guerrillas in South East Turkey before they disbanded
PKK members will get amnesty if they did not take part in violent acts
The Turkish parliament has approved a controversial bill granting partial amnesty to Kurdish militants.

The government believes this new bill will be a significant step towards national reconciliation in a country where tens of thousands of people died during 15 years of conflict.

But the ruling Justice and Development Party has been criticised for giving in to yet more American pressure and ignoring national sensitivities.

Out of 427 members present, 356 deputies voted for the change.

The main opposition, the Republican Party, rejected the bill.

'More informants'

Providing it does not get sent back by the president, the new law will grant a partial and conditional amnesty to the militants of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK.

Most of the members and sympathisers of the separatist Kurdish movement will escape punishment, providing they did not take part in violent acts.

But the partial amnesty does not apply to the leaders of the movement.

Kurdish groups claim this is not a true amnesty, but another way of creating more informants for the state.

The parliamentary opposition had claimed that the bill was the idea of the Americans, who are keen to see Turkish troops pull out of Northern Iraq.

Western commentators in Ankara say the Bush administration has been trying to persuade the Turkish government to take concrete steps towards solving its Kurdish problem.

'Path of peace'

Turkey is concerned that the power vacuum created by the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq will cause Kurdish insurgents to re-group and to start their attacks against Turkish security forces.

The government is hoping that the new legislation will pave the way for Kurdish militants in Northern Iraq to lay down their arms and to return to Turkey.

After the vote in parliament, the Interior Minister, Abdulkadir Aksu, thanked the deputies for choosing the path to peace and reconciliation.

He rejected the charge that the government came under pressure.

Instead, he said, Turkey had to learn the lessons of the past and it has to embrace all of its people, including some of its terrorists.

Country profile: Turkey
29 May 03  |  Country profiles
Turkey eyes Kurdish moves
12 Apr 03  |  Middle East
Turkish Kurds to get amnesty
27 Jun 03  |  Europe
US and Turkey seek Iraq co-operation
19 Jul 03  |  Middle East

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