ISTANBUL, March 27 A Turkish court released 45
defendants, including journalists and political activists,
accused of links to Kurdish militants on Thursday, a small step
in the country's ongoing efforts to end a Kurdish insurgency.
Lawyers had demanded the release of the defendants, on trial
for links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group,
after changes to Turkey's anti-terrorism laws which reduced the
maximum pre-trial detention period from 10 years to five years.
PKK fighters began withdrawing from Turkey to bases in
northern Iraq last May after a ceasefire was declared but
stopped the move in September, citing government failures to
take steps to advance the broader peace process. Their demands
included the release of political prisoners.
The ceasefire is holding despite isolated incidents of
unrest. The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the
European Union and United States.
The PKK insurgency has marred Turkey's human rights record
and crippled the economy in the mainly Kurdish southeast. More
than 40,000 people have been killed in fighting since 1984, most
of them Kurds.
(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Nick Tattersall)