CHP'S ENDORSES KURDISH LANGUAGE FOR SCHOOLS
The Republican People's Party (CHP) will use the issue of "education in mother tongue" [meaning Kurdish] in its election campaign. The main opposition party will release its election platform by the end of March and is likely to include the proposal that Kurdish language be an elective course in schools.
SETTLEMENT ARRANGED ON "ŞAMGEN"
One of the Iran's vice presidents, Ali Agha Mohammedi, announced that Iran, Syria, Iraq and Turkey agreed to apply a joint visa system called "ŞAMGEN" among the four countries. Tourists and businessmen may travel with a single visa. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan named this visa, ironically, for Europe's SCHENGEN visa by using the Turkish word for Syria's capital Damascus, ŞAM.
JOURNALISTS IN JAIL HAVE QUESTIONS
Nedim Şener, who was arrested early Sunday morning on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization, was asked fifty questions during his interrogation by police and prosecutors. It was revealed that Şener's phone conversations had been recorded for the past two years.
Journalists Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık have been arrested after being interrogated by prosecutors for five hours. Nedim Şener was asked nearly fifty questions; most of them about his book on the killing of Hrant Dink. Şener denied allegations that he was a secret member of the Ergenekon's propaganda unit.
SEVEN JOURNALISTS ARRESTED
Journalists Nedim Şener, Ahmet Şık, Yalçın Küçük and Doğan Yurdakul were among those detained within the scope of Ergenekon investigation.
Küçük, one of the suspects who were sent to Metris Prison, was accused of being the head of the Ergenekon terrorist organization.
INTERIOR MINISTER COMMENTS ON ARREST OF JOURNALISTS
Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay said that the government could not be faulted for the arrest of journalists within the scope of the Ergenekon investigation.
On private TB Canal 7 Sunday, Atalay said: "It is unjust to accuse the government for limiting the press regarding a procedure pursued by jurisdiction," while commenting on the arrest of journalists under Ergenekon (an alleged criminal network plotting to foment chaos to prepare the groundwork for a military takeover.)
Atalay said that there would not be democracy when there was no freedom of the press or thought. He added that it would be wise to wait for the results of the investigation.
The government expects the prosecutors to prevent misunderstandings, inform the public and get results of the investigation rapidly, he said.
Noting that Justice & Development Party (AKP) attached more importance to democratization policies more than to economic policies, Atalay said. The government modernized the Press Law, which was adopted in 1950, and lifted obstacles on freedom of thought and expression.
Commenting on the upcoming June 12 elections, Atalay said that according to surveys, the AKP would receive 49-50% of the vote, that the AKP's target was to include Turkey in the top ten biggest economies of the world by 2023 (an increase in national income per capita to $25,000), and prepare for the first civilian constitution.
QUESTIONS FROM TURKISH JOURNALISTS RAISE IRE
Journalistic practices, rather than terrorist activities, dominated the questioning of two reporters arrested Sunday in connection with an alleged coup-plotting gang, according to news reports.
Although arrested on charges of membership in an illegal armed organization, journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener were subjected to questioning that focused more on their written work than their involvement in the alleged Ergenekon gang.
Prosecutors reportedly quizzed Şener with roughly fifty questions on columns he had written in the past and opinions he had voiced on TV shows.
Şık, meanwhile, was asked why his forthcoming book, "İmamın Ordusu" (The Imam's Army), which focuses on an alleged organization within the Turkish police under control of the Fetthulah Gülen religious movement, was discovered on one of the computers of the dissident web news portal Oda TV when the media outlet's offices were raided last month as part of the Ergenekon coup plot probe.
"I wonder about that, too. It is up to you to determine that," Şık reportedly told his interrogators.
Şık told prosecutors that he had not send a digital copy of his book to anyone other than his lawyer and added that he had no connection to Oda TV owner Soner Yalçın, who was arrested in connection to the coup plot case after last month's raid. Şık is already on trial for a book he co-authored about the Ergenekon case. The journalist's work was instrumental in helping build the first Ergenekon indictment. Şık's "coup diaries" were printed in 2007 and detailed alleged plans written by former Navy Cmdr. Özden Örnek. The magazine that printed the diaries, Nokta, was later shut down, allegedly under military pressure. Şener, who is most famous for penning a recent book about the alleged intelligence failures he claims led to the 2007 murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, was also asked if he had a "close relationship" with Yalçın.
In the wake of the Oda TV raids, Şener had said in his column that he would file a criminal complaint against Yalçın for "attempting to undermine his dignity" following the revelation of alleged information linking him to former police chief Hanefi Avcı, who is currently on trial for alleged membership in an outlawed leftist organization. Avcı was arrested after publishing a book last year that alleged that the Gülen movement had taken covert control of the state. Prosecutors asked Şener why he had defended Avcı's work and the man himself even though they have conflicting opinions, as well as whether the journalist had contributed to the writing of the former police chief's book.
Daily Milliyet reported Sunday that Şener's phones had been wiretapped since 2009. The newspaper noted that police had received an e-mail from a person identified only as M. Yılmaz on May 6, 2009, alleging that Şener "has a very secret mission in the propaganda unit of Ergenekon." Şener was tried for "making targets of civil servants," "obtaining secret documents" and "exposing secret documents" for his recent book on Dink but was acquitted. The International Press Institute also presented him with its World Press Freedom Hero award in 2010. Authorities have accused the alleged Ergenekon gang of plotting to overthrow the government by fomenting chaos in society.
PRIME MINISTER ERDOĞAN SPEAKS IN İZMİR
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at the opening of a suburban railway system in western province of İzmir that some groups tried to intimidate and threaten people before the upcoming the elections in Turkey. "A party has been trying to get the votes of people in eastern and southeastern parts of the country by using their ethnic backgrounds. On the other hand, parties in western and southern parts of the country try to get votes by using terror and the threat of separation. This is nothing but opportunism," Erdoğan said.
AKP TURNED IT'S FACE TO ARAB WORLD
Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman says the cause of the tension in Israel-Turkey relations is the turn of AKP government to the Arab world. Speaking to Cypriot journalists, he concluded: "This tension increased after the Mavi Marmara incident. On the other hand, we are following the recent developments in the Arab world with concern."
Lieberman describes Israel as an Asian country maintaining close ties with Europe. He says these closes ties are the result of work with South Cyprus, Greece, Balkan countries, Russia and other European countries. He also mentioned that Israel is eager to establish a partnership with Greece and South Cyprus for natural-gas projects in eastern Mediterranean.
ALEVIS ATTEND PRO-DEMOCRACY RALLY
Nearly 100,000 Alevis held a rally in Gündoğdu Square of western province of İzmir on Sunday. The rally's theme was "Democratic Constitution and Equal Citizenship Rights."
Some speeches maintained that the country was being dragged into a one-man government [dictatorship].
TURKEY FACES SERIOUS DEADLOCK SAID DAVUTOGLU
On Saturday Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Turkey faces serious deadlock over the opening of chapters to EU negotiations.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in Istanbul, Davutoglu said that they wanted the EU to have a strategic vision in its approach to Turkey.
Sweden and Italy support Turkey both in the EU process and in other international platforms. Sweden and Italy are friends of Turkey, Davutoglu said. "Today, we discussed Turkey-EU relations. We evaluated the developments with Turkey's strong supporters, Italy and Sweden. I once again conveyed our disappointment over the EU's recent decision pertaining to visas. The two countries had extended strong support to Turkey but, due to certain countries, a decision was not taken to begin talks on visa exemption," Davutoglu said.
Touching on the recent developments in Libya, Davutoglu said that all sides should refrain from making things worse in Libya.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that he was disappointed with the EU's applying double standards to Turkey.
"We have always supported visa exemption (for Turkey). While other countries are excepted, we note that the EU is unwilling to provide a visa exemption to Turkey," Frattini said. "We look at such an attitude as a double standard."
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said that Turkey was its friend.
We support Turkey's EU process, Bildt said.
We are thankful to Turkey for efforts made in evacuating Swedish nationals from Libya, Bildt said.