Turkey abolishes death penalty
Turkey's parliament abolished the death penalty and legalized education and broadcasts in Kurdish on Saturday, steps directed to boost the country's chances for joining the European Union.
The EU had made the reforms a condition for Turkey to join the union after making it a candidate for membership in 1999. Deep divisions within Turkey over the reforms had deadlocked the government in recent months and fueled a political crisis.
Legislators rushed to pass the legislation in an emergency meeting after parliament earlier in the week approved general elections in November, 18 months early. According to AP, the EU is scheduled to draft a report on Turkey's progress on reforms in October.
"We are happy that the death penalty is being lifted in Turkey," Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said. "It is important that the EU's door open up for Turkey." The 14-point reform package was passed despite sharp opposition from the nationalist party, the largest grouping in parliament, who want the death penalty applied to Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of Kurdish rebels.
During the debate, nationalist legislator Mehmet Gul derided his pro-EU colleagues, telling them that lifting the death penalty means "forgiving Ocalan and the terrorists."
"The families of the martyrs ... await the decision you will take here with tears in their eyes." he said. The nationalists draw strong support from families of soldiers who fought in a 15-year war against Ocalan's autonomy-seeking rebels. (Albawaba.com)
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