12 Kurdish politicians barred from running for Turkish parliament
Turkey's elections board ruled on Monday that 12 Kurdish politicians who had registered as independent candidates in national elections set for June were ineligible to run for parliament because of their prior terrorism-related convictions, the semi-official Anatolia Agency reported.
Dozens of Kurdish politicians who support the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) had announced that they would run as independent candidates in the upcoming elections in an attempt to get over the 10 percent threshold in Turkey for parties to enter parliament, dpa reported.
Turkey's board of elections ruled that 12 of the candidates were ineligible to run because they had previously been convicted of taking part in or supporting terrorist activities.
The politicians include Leyla Zana, who caused an uproar when she attempted to make a speech in Kurdish after being sworn into the Turkish Parliament in 1991.
Zana was convicted of membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - considered a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States - and spent 10 years in prison.
The European Court of Human Rights later ruled that Turkey had violated Zana's right to freedom of expression and ordered the government to pay her compensation.
Selahattin Demirtas, chairman of the BDP, called the election board's decision "a political operation; a political purge" that would benefit the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the elections.
"The state has decided to hand over [Turkey's south-eastern] region to the AKP," Demirtas told broadcaster CNNTurk.