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Human rights activist receives one-year prison sentence for speaking of "Kurdistan", faces other legal actions over speeches and interviews

(BIANET/IFEX) - Human rights activist and lawyer Eren Keskin has received a one-year sentence for saying "Turkey has a dirty history" and using the term "Kurdistan". Keskin, who is also a former president of the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD), faces 13 trials and two investigations for various speeches, articles and interviews. In one case she has been sentenced to one year imprisonment, converted into a 4,380 YTL (approx. US$ 3,450) fine (under Article 159/1 of the old Turkish Penal Code).

Keskin's sentencing was over a speech she made at a human rights panel organised by the pro-Kurdish Democratic People's Party (DEHAP) in Cerkesköy (district of Tekirdag, Thrace) on 20 February 2005. She was accused of "insulting and degrading the republic". The prosecution also demanded that four previous delayed sentences be reviewed. The sentences had been delayed under the Conditional Amnesty No. 4616. Keskin reacted to the sentence by saying that her right to life was being violated.

A journalist witness, Saban Kardes, editor of a Cerkesköy newspaper, said that he left the room in protest and that he had recorded her words. According to Kardes, Keskin said: "There are attempts to suggest that human rights violations in Kurdistan have ended. This is not true. With the foundation of the state of the Turkish Republic, Kurdistan was ruled with the same law. The state is brutal enough to kill a 12-year-old child*; the Turkish Republic is a killer with bloody hands. They have to give account and apologise to us. Turkey's history is a dirty history".

A cameraman of a local TV channel, Savas Ozturk, agreed that such a statement was made, but said that he could not remember the exact content of the speech as he was concentrating on his work. Another witness confirmed the account.

Another investigation against Keskin has begun on request of the General Staff. Keskin is accused of "targeting the Turkish Armed Forces" in an interview she gave to the German "Tagesspiegel" newspaper on 24 June 2006.

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