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 Swedish Social Democrat Workers Party asked EU to condemn new Turkish sentence against Kurdish lawmaker

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Swedish SDW Party asked EU to condemn new Turkish sentence against Kurdish lawmaker  27.5.2012  
By staff writers

Turkey's prominent outspoken Kurdish rights advocate Leyla Zana, former Kurdish MP in Turkey Zana spent a decade behind bars (between 1994 and 2004) in Turkey for speaking Kurdish in the Turkish Parliament after taking her parliamentary oath. She was the first Kurdish woman to be elected to Turkey's parliament. Photo: ANF  See Related Links
May 27, 2012

STOCKHOLM, — Swedish Social Democrat Workers Party (SAP) European deputies strongly reacted to the ten years imprisonment sentence given to independent MP Leyla Zana on charges of “committing crime on behalf of an illegal organization despite not being a member of it” and “making propaganda for an illegal organization”. Swedish deputies brought up the subject on the Parliament’s agenda and called on the European Union to express its concern to Turkey, ANF news agency reported.

In a press statement on the prison sentence imposed on Zana for nine separate speeches she made in 2007-2008, Swedish deputies urged European Union to condemn the sentence and to make demands on Turkey to assure basic rights and freedoms.

SAP deputy Carin Runesson evaluated the prison sentence as unacceptable, underlining that Leyla Zana has given effort for many years for the purpose of ensuring peaceful ways to the conflict between the Turkish government and the Kurdish people.

SAP former Secretary General Marita Ulvskog stated that they called on the representative of the European Union for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, to protest the sentence passed on Leyla Zana.

Göran Färm, member of the European Parliament said “It is regrettable that the freedom of expression isn’t being assured by Turkey which is supposed to change its attitude in order to be a member of the EU.”

Leyla Zana was sentenced to 15 months in prison on July 28, 2009 for remarks upholding Kurdish PKK rebels fighting the Turkish government. On December 4, 2008 sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for praising PKK

Zana, who in 1995 won the European Parliament's Sakharov human rights award, and several other Kurds were elected to parliament in 1991, but lost their seats in 1994 after their party was outlawed for links with the PKK. Zana and three colleagues spent 10 years behind bars for collaborating with the rebels. They were released in June 2004.

Zana and her colleagues were first sentenced to 15 years in jail in 1994 for membership of the Turkey's outlawed PKK. In March 2003, Zana and her co-defendants were allowed a retrial after their original conviction was condemned as unfair by the European Court of Human Rights in 2001. She was released in 2004 after Turkey's appeals court overturned her conviction.

Leyla Zana, the symbol of peaceful strife of the Kurdish people, was granted the Italian honorary nationality in Rome on October 23, 2008.

- More than 13 years' imprisonment within two years

Zana received a two-year prison sentence from the Diyarbakir 6th High Criminal Court on the grounds of a speech made at the Newroz celebrations in 2007 (traditional Kurdish festival to mark the beginning of the Iranian New Year and the arrival of spring). She was sentenced for saying "The three leaders of the Kurds Jalal Talabani, Massoud Barzani and Abdullah Öcalan".

Zana stood trial once more under charges of "praising crime and criminals" based on her defence in the case mentioned above. The Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court acquitted the politician.

Former DEP MP Zana received a prison sentence of one year and three months based on a speech she had given at a seminar held by the School of Oriental and African Studies in London on 24 May 2008. Zana was convicted of "propaganda for an illegal organization". In her speech, she had likened the PKK and its imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan's importance to the Kurdish people to the importance the brain and heart have to humans. "They have created a new life for the Kurdish people, so that a people that used to be ashamed of its existence gained a spirit of freedom and resistance."

On 4 December 2008, Zana was sentenced to imprisonment of ten years by the Diyarbakir 5th High Criminal Court under allegations of "spreading propaganda for the PKK" in nine different speeches. The court voiced the opinion that "the defendant's activities over all reached the dimension of membership of the PKK/Kongra-Gel terror organization". The decision included Zana's deprivation of the right to vote and to be elected and several other political rights.  

The PKK has several times proposed peaceful solutions regarding Kurdish problem, Turkey has always refused saying that it will not negotiate with “terrorists”.

Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous Kurdish region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by Ankara and U.S. The PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list. 

Sources: | AFP | Reuters | AP | | ANF | Agencies 

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