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TURKEY - Feb. 13 - Death In Parliament Rattles Ankara.

An IHT report says the Jan. 30 death of True Path Party MP Mehmet Fevzi Sihanlioglu, 55, has provoked "a kind of national soul-searching that has plumbed the political and cultural divides of modern Turkey". It quotes True Path Party leader Tansu Ciller as saying her fallen comrade was a "martyr of democracy" and adding: "The attack taking place in Parliament was not solely against a person, but against democracy. The incident was an attempt by those who cannot tolerate different voices, an attempt to silence the Parliament". The IHT report says: "It started with verbal mudslinging across the marble chamber of the Grand National Assembly... It graduated to pushing and shoving and tea-cup throwing, then exploded into a melee of fisticuffs. It ended with a 55-year-old member of Parliament, who had been beaten about the head and chest by fellow lawmakers, dead of a heart attack, two legislators charged with involuntary manslaughter, and the dead man's family vowing revenge".

(The chaos on the assembly floor broke out over a proposed law that parties in the governing coalition asserted would streamline a Parliament that is as cumbersome and inefficient as a telegraph in the age on the Internet. The National Assembly had become so backlogged under current procedural rules that it could take up to 48 years to clear all the bills on the calendar. Smaller opposition parties called the proposed restrictions a parliamentary ploy to silence minority voices. As the debate grew increasingly heated, a group of minority-party lawmakers tried to form a cordon around the speaker's podium in an effort to continue debate and thwart the call for vote. Sihanlioglu was in the middle of the fray. News photographs show him landing a punch on a colleague. Other photographs, which have become crucial prosecutorial evidence, show lawmakers from the conservative Nationalist Action Party, a member of the governing coalition, getting the upper hand. Sihanlioglu slumped to the ground as the pistol he routinely carried skittered across the floor. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died. A coroner's report determined that Sihanlioglu received a half-dozen severe blows but did not blame them for bringing on the heart attack. Sihanlioglu reportedly had a history of heart problems. In the days following the fatal incident, the Assembly faced another crisis. Parliamentary leaders rushed to Sihanlioglu's home town to defuse further bloodletting when the relatives of the lawmaker, who hailed from a powerful clan in the rural south-east, vowed to get even and began organising busloads of revenge-seeking tribesmen to descend on Ankara. That sort of reaction could explain why many MPs pack guns. Twelve years ago, two lawmakers pulled guns on each other in the lobby in a duel that left the loser dead on the floor).
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Feb 17, 2001
Words:459
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