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Differences Hamper New Turkish Constitution, Say Kurd Lawmakers

Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- A Turkish parliamentary committee drafting a new constitution remains divided over key issues including language rights, a Kurdish lawmaker said today.

The committee has only agreed six of the 38 articles related to basic rights and freedoms, Gultan Kisanak, co-chairwoman of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, told a joint news conference with co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas in Ankara today.

Kisanak accused three other parties, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, of insisting that Turkish be the only official language, citing concerns over national security or public order.

“If people will not be allowed to express their views in their own mother tongue, how can this constitution be considered liberal?,” Kisanak asked.

The government has allowed broadcasts and classes in the once-banned Kurdish language. It has rejected demands for full education in Kurdish over concerns that it may divide the country along ethnic lines.

The parliament plans to finish drafting the constitution to replace the current one, a legacy of the 1980 military coup, by the end of this year.

The discussion will resume on Oct. 1 amid tensions over a probe into alleged ties between some Kurdish lawmakers, including Kisanak and Demirtas, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has intensified armed attacks in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeast since December.

Militant Embrace

Kisanak attracted criticism for the televised embrace of Kurdish militants at a roadblock near the southeastern town of Semdinli, bordering Iran and Iraq, on Aug. 17.

Erdogan said parliament would meet its responsibilities if prosecutors ask the legislature to lift the immunity of Kurdish lawmakers and so allow their prosecution.

“Such a development will amount to a clear hostile act,” Demirtas said today. “Then, we will be forced to give a political response.” Demirtas did not detail what this might entail.

Some Kurdish lawmakers, including Leyla Zana, have been stripped of their legal immunity and served 10 years in prison on charges of ties to the PKK in the past. Zana was re-elected to parliament in 2010.

To contact the reporter on this story: Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at shacaoglu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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