Turkey releases extreme Islamist gang, PKK suspects over new law

09:37, January 06, 2011      

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The Turkish authorities have released 23 suspects of an extreme Islamist gang and the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) on Tuesday as a new law restricts the period suspects can be jailed while waiting for final verdicts.

Approximately 1,000 people may benefit from the new law in effect, Turkish Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said in an interview with Turkey's private NTV Channel on Wednesday.

Eighteen of the released suspects were members of the Turkish Hezbollah, which shares name with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah but has no formal links.

Haci Inan, the alleged leader of the armed wing of Turkish Hezbollah, together with other leaders were charged with murdering 103 people by burying them alive. They have been standing trial since July, 2000 and were all freed pending an appeals court verdict.

According to the amendment to Turkey's criminal procedures law that entered into force on Dec. 31, suspects can no longer be held for more than 10 years. An estimated 50,000 inmates might petition courts for a review of their cases under the new legislation, which likely to cause more releases.

Turkey's judicial system has long been criticized of being slow since unconvicted suspects were kept in jail for many years. Sometimes trials are dragging on for more than a decade.

"The actual problem is the workload of the Supreme Court. One and a half million dossiers are waiting to be handled by the Supreme Court. What we need to do is to shorten the trial process, " said Ergin.

The finalization of a law case in Turkey takes approximately 1, 622 days, of which 580 for the court and 1,042 for the Supreme Court, said Ergin, adding that more courts are planning to speed up the process.

However, the new law has drawn criticism from lawyers, who said it could be interpreted differently by judges and even could be used to keep suspects in jail for as long as 10 years, instead of speeding up the justice system.

"The style of writing of the article has faults which cause interpretation differences," Hasan Gerceker, chairman of the Supreme Court of Appeals, told the CNNTurk Channel on Wednesday.

He said the decade-long upper limit could not be accepted as reasonable nor was it in harmony with the European Union standards.

"However, it is not right to complain about the length of arrest periods on one hand while complaining terrorism suspects such as Hezbollah members could be released," Gerceker said, noting the judges were practicing what the laws order impartially.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, told reporters on Wednesday that his party plans to prepare a law motion on the issue as "the decisions (to release the suspects) discomfort the public conscience."

The Turkish Hezbollah is listed by Turkey as a terrorist organization that seeks a radical Islamic regime to replace the country's current secular rule. The Turkish police launched a large-scale probe in 2000 against the group, which then resulted in the discovery of the mass graves, where the victims were buried after being kidnapped and tortured.

Source: Xinhua

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