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Publisher sentenced to five months' imprisonment for writing Kurdish-language petition, also on trial for publishing book

(BIANET/IFEX) - The Istanbul First Criminal Court of Peace has sentenced publisher Mehdi Tanrikulu of Tevn Publications to five months' imprisonment because he wrote a petition in Kurdish complaining about a prosecutor in Diyarbakir, and because he spoke Kurdish at his trial. He will appeal the sentence.

The court claims that Tanrikulu violated the Laws on the Wearing of the Hat and the Alphabet Reform, which have remained in place since Atatürk's reforms.

The court said that the defendant had been "adamant" about having Kurdish accepted by public institutions.

Tanrikulu has announced that he would appeal the sentence.

On 6 February, Tanrikulu appeared for the last hearing of the case and made his statement in Kurdish, using an interpreter. He said in his defense, "I have the right to express myself in my mother tongue; this alphabet must also be accepted by official institutions."

Tanrikulu explained that Diyarbakir prosecutor Muammer Özcan, against whom he had filed a complaint, had not been investigated at all, but that he, Tanrikulu, had been put on trial for writing the complaint in Kurdish.

At a hearing held on 13 September 2007, Tanrikulu had said, "I believe in the precedence of law, but the nature of this trial is political."

Tanrikulu pointed out that Özcan had used the expression "the so-called Kurdish people" in an (vs: indictment, which constituted an injury. He added that he would continue to speak his language.

The Istanbul First Criminal Court of Peace cited Article 222 of the Turkish Penal Code, which deals with violations of the "Hat Wearing and Turkish Alphabet Acceptance and Application Law."

According to Article 39/5 of the Lausanne Agreeement of 1923, "all Turkish citizens have the right to use their own language when speaking in court."

The court also took into consideration a previous 12 and a half-year sentence for "PKK membership" handed out by a Diyarbakir State Security Court and argued that Tanrikulu was insisting on committing a crime.

Tanrikulu has been acquitted of "spreading propaganda of an illegal organisation" after publishing a book by Zülfikar Tak detailing the torture methods used in Diyarbakir prison. However, he is still on trial at the Istanbul Fourteenth Serious Crimes Court for the publication of the book "The Kurdish Freedom Movement and the Role of the PKK in the Imperialist Process of Capitalism."

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