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TAKE ACTION! DEMAND FREEDOM FOR TURKEY'S LEYLA ZANA

Leyla Zana, a well-known political spokesperson for Kurds in Turkey, was sentenced to 10 years in jail last December for violating the penal code and the anti-terror law in nine different speeches. She is accused of having supported the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) and spreading propaganda. IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET) is asking you to join some of Turkey's highest profile activists and sign a petition for her release.

Zana was the first Kurdish woman to win a seat in the Turkish Parliament in 1991. Her decision to give the parliamentary oath in her native tongue - the first time Kurdish had been spoken in the Turkish parliament - led to immediate calls for her arrest. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison for her political actions, which were claimed to be against the unity of Turkey.

In 2004, after serving 10 years, she was released due to international pressure. Zana received the Rafto Prize in 1994 and the Sakharov Prize the following year.

Despite Zana's sufferings and personal losses during the previous 10 years of imprisonment in Turkey, she has continued to speak on behalf of the Kurdish people, seeking a non-violent and democratic solution for the Kurds living within Turkey's borders.

Upon being convicted for another 10 years in prison, Zana told the EU Turkey Civic Commission, "The case against me is a violation against freedom of thought, and represents a threat to every Kurd in Turkey. The decision of the court is just another way to repress, silence and punish the Kurds.

"The mentality governing this country is that problems can be resolved by anti-democratic and repressive means and that unfair trial can provide political and social peace. But despite all this, our people will claim their legitimate rights, and will continue to struggle for this as long as it takes."

A campaign to free Zana and lift all legal obstructions to free expression has been started by rights activists - among them writer Ragip Zarakolu, human rights activist Hürriyet Sener and journalist Inci Hekimoglu.

Support their campaign and sign the petition at: http://leyla-zana.blogspot.com

Also visit these links:
- BIANET: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/101835
- EU Turkey Civic Commission: http://tinyurl.com/cu3oa7
(25 March 2009)

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