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Last Updated: Friday, 9 July, 2004, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Freed Kurd ex-MPs face new threat
Leyla Zana (centre) and Selim Sadak (left)
Turkey's Kurds celebrated when the four were released last month
Turkish police are pushing for new charges to be brought against four Kurdish former MPs who were freed after a decade of imprisonment a month ago.

A police spokesman accused them of making separatist speeches at rallies in south-eastern Turkey last month.

The four - including award-winning rights activist Leyla Zana - are also accused of speaking Kurdish at the rally, in violation of Turkish law.

Their release last month was welcomed by the EU and human rights groups.

The four - Ms Zana, Orhan Dogan, Hatip Dicle and Selim Sadak - were sentenced to prison in 1994 for their ties to the now-defunct Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which advocated a violent campaign for Kurdish self-rule.

Despite their release, an appeal against their initial conviction is still pending and a decision is expected on 14 July.

The police spokesman, Ramazan Er, said the appeals court reviewing the sentences had been informed of the new claims against them.

Most restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language in Turkey have been lifted in recent years, but speeches in Kurdish are still forbidden under Turkish laws governing elections and political parties.

Ceasefire call

Mr Er said the four former MPs had also broken traffic and meeting regulations at the rallies last month.

The police's plan to bring charges follows remarks by a top Turkish general criticising the four for participating in political rallies.

Gen Ilker Basbug, deputy head of the Turkish military, said the four had made speeches proposing "a separatist terrorist organisation stop its activities for six more months".

At one of the rallies, Ms Zana, who has long argued for a peaceful struggle for greater Kurdish rights, reportedly called upon the new version of the PKK - Kongra-Gel - to resume its ceasefire with the Turkish state.

Clashes between Turkish security forces and Kongra-Gel guerrillas have increased since the group ended its five-year-old ceasefire in June.

High-profile dissident

Ms Zana rose to prominence in Turkey in 1991, when she spoke in Kurdish during her oath of allegiance to parliament.

She became known as a high-profile dissident when she was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Peace Prize in 1995 - a year after her conviction.

Ms Zana and the three other Kurdish former members of parliament had their sentences confirmed in an earlier retrial this year, but European institutions warned that their continued imprisonment would affect Turkey's efforts to join the EU.

The European Commission is to issue a report in October on whether Turkey is ready to start EU entry talks.

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