(Reuters) - Forty-four pro-Kurdish journalists went on trial in Turkey on Monday, charged with belonging to an armed rebellion in the country's largest media case, intensifying concerns about press and political freedoms.
The KCK tribunals have led civil rights groups to question the stated commitment of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government to human rights, particularly given the widespread use of pre-trial detention.
Some supporters of the government argue it is using judicial measures to pursue those with suspected links to or sympathies for the guerrillas to drain grassroots support for the PKK and even put pressure on it to demilitarize.
Critics say the arrests amount to a crackdown on the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), parliament's pro-Kurdish party. The BDP says more than 1,000 of its members are in jail.
"This is a political trial. All of the trials under the KCK banner are an effort to break the back of the Kurdish political struggle," Ertugrul Kurkcu, a BDP lawmaker, told Reuters.
"The judiciary is a weapon in the war," he said.
Kurds are Turkey's biggest ethnic minority, making up an estimated 20 percent of the population of 74 million people.
Reporters Without Borders said the trial "undermined Turkey's attempts to play the role of a regional model".
HRW's Sinclair-Webb said the latest KCK indictment did not accuse any defendant of planning or carrying out attacks and that evidence they were involved in violence was "very thin". ...