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 EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee co-chair “deep concerned” over Leyla Zana's prison sentence

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EU's French Helene Flautre “deep concerned” over Leyla Zana's prison sentence  1.6.2012  
By staff writers 

EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Commission co-chair French Helene Flautre expressed her “deep concern” over the ten years prison sentence for Zana.

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  
June 1, 2012

BRUSSELS, Belgium, — EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Commission co-chair French Helene Flautre expressed her “deep concern” over the ten years prison sentence for Turkey's prominent outspoken Kurdish rights advocate and MP Leyla Zana, Firat news agency ANF reported.

Reminding of Zana’s imprisonment in 1994 because of the statements she made, Helene Flautre, member of the European Parliament for the French Green Party, evaluated the sentence as a blow against the freedom of expression in Turkey.

“This sentence proves the fact that the freedom of expression in Turkey is under the threat of courts and the penal code, I urge the Turkish government and parliament to make a reform in the anti-terror law, to revoke all sentences imposed on Zana and to take necessary legal measures with an aim to secure basic freedoms and to ensure a real freedom of thought.”, said Flautre.

One other reaction against Zana’s prison sentence was voiced by the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP) which evaluated the sentence as a part of the political repression against the Kurdish people.

MRAP called attention to the arrest of thousands of Kurds including elected representatives, lawyers, journalists, women and children and called on the French government and the European Parliament to intervene in the process for the release of Kurdish and Turkish political prisoners.

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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