Benjamin Harvey

AP Worldstream
May 10, 2006

A Turkish court ruled on Wednesday that the authors of a
government-ordered report on minorities were not guilty of "inciting
hatred and enmity" when they said Turkey should grant more rights to
Kurds and other minorities.

Professors Ibrahim Kaboglu and Baskin Orhan faced up to five years in
prison after their report angered nationalists, who feared recognition
of minority rights in Turkey could lead to the country being broken
up along ethnic lines.

A state prosecutor had demanded that the professors, who both worked
for the state Human Rights Advisory Council, be punished for their
remarks deemed "inflammatory."

The professors' 2004 report urged the government to change its policy
and recognize Kurds as a distinct minority. Turkey says that all
Muslims in the country are Turks.

Until 1991, the Kurdish language was banned and even now broadcasting
in Kurdish is strictly limited by the government.

The European Union, which Turkey hopes to join, has demanded that
Turkey improve its treatment of minorities. The push for enhanced
rights, especially for Kurds, has faced opposition in a country still
battling autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels in its southeast.

The fight with the rebels, who would like to establish an autonomous
region in a chunk of Turkey's east, has claimed more than 37,000
lives in the past two decades.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to improve the
situation with government investment in the largely poor Kurdish

But the prime minister angered many Turks earlier this year when he
traveled to the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir and acknowledged
that Turkey had made mistakes in the past in dealing with what he
called its "Kurdish problem."

There are an estimated 14 million Kurds _ about 20 percent of Turkey's
population of 71 million _ in Turkey, though exact numbers are
difficult to come by because the government does not keep statistics
that classify Kurds as a separate minority.

Kaboglu and Oran's rights report had also suggested that Turkey give
equal rights to non-Muslims, who are barred from jobs in the police
and Foreign Ministry, and from becoming military officers.

Unlike Kurds, Christians and Jews are recognized as minorities in
Turkey, but nationalists question the loyalty of non-Muslim Turks,
particularly those of Greek or Armenian descent.

Kaboglu, one of the authors of the report, called the case against him,
"a shame for Turkey."

The court on Wednesday also dropped charges against the two professors
for allegedly insulting the judiciary when they criticized the charges
brought against them. The Anatolia news agency reported that the
Justice Ministry, already under criticism for prominent freedom of
expression cases like the one against novelist Orhan Pamuk, refused
to approve those charges.