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CHILDREN BEING JAILED UNDER ANTI-TERROR LAWS

A 15-year-old boy will spend more than three years in prison for taking part in a protest organised by the Kurdish militant group the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Turkish court ruled last month. He's just one of the dozens of children who has been tried or sentenced under anti-terrorism laws, report IFEX members in Turkey the Initiative for Freedom of Expression (Antenna-TR) and IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET).

The teen was tried and convicted for committing a crime on behalf of an illegal organisation - PKK - for allegedly attending one of the group's street protests in Adana and throwing stones at police officers. He initially faced 7.5 years in jail, but the sentence was reduced because of his age and good conduct in court. The child was taken into custody on 1 November 2008, and has been in Pozantı prison since.

A 2006 Anti-Terrorism Law amendment allows Turkish courts to charge teenagers aged 15 to 18 years old as adults. Human rights activists have pointed out that the amendment was made after protests took place in Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır in the southeast of Turkey.

"These rulings are incompatible with Turkey's obligations arising from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Turkish Constitution and the Law on the Protection of Children," Human Rights Association (İHD) Adana branch director Ethem Acikalin told BIANET.

Similarly, 10 children who participated in protests in Diyarbakır during the visit of Prime Minister Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan last October are currently on trial in Diyarbakır - some of them as young as 13. They stand accused of membership of an illegal organisation, namely PKK, and some of them are charged with "committing crimes in the name of a terrorist organisation". The prosecution has sought jail time of more than 20 years for some of the accused.

According to one of the children's lawyers, four of them were arrested purely on the statements of police officers, without further evidence. Another four are being tried as adults under the amendment.

Rights defenders coming together from İzmir, İstanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakır have launched the "Justice for Children" initiative to demand the release of the dozens of children arrested for taking part in protests and the reform of the laws that make such arrests possible.

According to Antenna-TR, more than 100 children have been arrested so far this year - many of them for attending demonstrations that commemorated the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan on 15 February ten years ago. Marbles found on the children were considered "strong evidence," reports Antenna-TR.

Antenna-TR says that currently in Turkey 198 children between the ages of 13 and 17 are in prison. In 2006 and 2007, 1,572 children were prosecuted under anti-terror laws; 174 of them were found guilty, says Antenna-TR.

Visit these links:
- Antenna-TR: http://www.antenna-tr.org/index.asp?lgg=en
- BIANET: http://bianet.org/english/kategori/children
(Photo courtesy of Antenna-TR)

(4 March 2009)

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