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Court sentences former parliamentarian to 10 years in jail for speeches sympathetic to Kurdistan, imprisoned Kurdish leader

(BIANET/IFEX) - On 4 December 2008, the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakir sentenced Leyla Zana, a former member of the Democracy Party (DEP), to 10 years in prison for "being a member of a terrorist organization" under article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code. The court, headed by Judge Dündar Örsdemir, decided that Zana's activities had reached "the point of acting as a member of the terrorist organization Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)."

The court also decided to deprive Zana of the right to participate in elections either as a candidate or a voter and of other political rights under article 53/1 of the Turkish Penal Code.

Zana's lawyer was absent when the court reached its decision. The lawyer had presented a reason for being unable to attend the hearing but the court refused to accept it.

The court first sentenced Zana to eight years in prison and later increased the sentence to 12 years on the grounds that the offence was related to terrorism, before finally reducing it to 10 years after taking into consideration Zana's good behaviour.

The court based its case on speeches that Zana made between 18 July 2007 and 21 March 2008 that featured the flags of the Democratic Confederacy and slogans from Abdullah Öcalan, PKK's imprisoned leader.

The court stated that during a meeting of the independent deputy candidates at Diyarbakir, Zana had said, "Amed (city of Diyarbakir), I expect from you a voice, a very loud voice, so that not only Ankara, but the whole world must hear it . . ." She had also said that the arrest of Öcalan had caused a political earthquake in the hearts of Kurds. The court also stated that she had asked the people of Diyarbakir "not to let Kurdistan get blunted."

It was also noted that she had criticized the fact that Kurdistan was called the Southeast. According to Zana, it should be called Kurdistan, as it had been for her grandfather, Seyh Sait, Seyh Riza.

The indictment also included a statement by Zana that the role of Öcalan, the Kurdish people's leader, was crucial in solving the Kurdish problem. The court also claims that she had said in her speech in Batman that this willpower was going to bring peace shortly, that all "the women from the age of 7 to 77 were ready for this fight."

Zana is accused of "committing crimes in the name of the PKK, though she was not a member of it" in the indictment prepared by the Diyarbakir Prosecutor's Office.

Zana was in prison between 1994 and 2004 for her activities as a Kurdish activist, and served an additional two-year term for an article written in 1998 while in jail. She is famous in Turkey as the country's first-ever Kurdish woman to be elected to parliament.

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