A prominent European Union official has said he welcomes changes made to the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK) which allow the use of one's mother tongue in Turkish courts.
European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle said in a tweet on Tuesday that he welcomes changes that allow the use of one's mother tongue in court, a subject which has risen to heated debate in Turkish politics.
The Turkish Parliament adopted a law legalizing the use of languages other than Turkish by defendants if they feel more comfortable expressing themselves in another language.
While Füle noted in his Twitter message that he is keen to see a rapid implementation of the law, a Diyarbakır court had already allowed a man to deliver his defense in Kurdish on Tuesday.
The historic moment took place after the Kurdish man, who speaks Turkish, stated that he would prefer to deliver his defense in Kurdish. Despite the fact that the bill has not yet been approved by President Abdullah Gül, the court's board decided based on the bill's passage in Parliament last week to allow an interpreter in the courtroom.
The law went through on Jan. 25, 2013, and makes changes to the CMK and to the Law on the Execution of Punitive and Security Measures. With the changes, suspects will be able to use the language in which they feel they can express themselves best when submitting their defense. The state will cover the expenses for courtroom translators. Translators for the defendants will be chosen from lists prepared by provincial judicial committees.
The issue of making one's defense in one's mother language or in a language other than Turkish has become a hot topic in recent months, with some trials deadlocked by defendants demanding the right to deliver their statements of defense in their mother tongue.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç emphasized in November that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) would remove the ban because it was a matter of human rights, not because of demands by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorist organization that it do so. On Nov. 15, 2012, a government proposal that would pave the way for defendants to make their defense in languages other than Turkish at court hearings was approved by Parliament's Human Rights Commission.
Speaking at the parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that allowing suspects to testify in their mother tongue is a common practice in developed countries and will be so in Turkey from now on as well.