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Lawyer, actor and writer each sentenced to one year in prison for using the terms "Kurds" and "Kurdistan"

(BIANET/IFEX) - Lawyer Eren Keskin, theatre actor Murat Batgi and writer Edip Polat were sentenced to one year in prison for using the terms "Kurdistan" and "Kurds." Furthermore, they were deprived of many of their civil rights.

The Diyarbakir 5th High Criminal Court found Keskin, Batgi and Polat guilty of "inciting hatred and hostility" and handed down a one-year prison sentence to each of them. The accused were put on trial for using the terms "Kurdistan" and "Kurds" in a speech on the occasion of the 6th Culture and Art Festival in Diyarbakir three years ago, on 31 March 2006.

Keskin, a lawyer and human rights activist, issued a press release at the Istanbul Branch of the Human Rights Association (HRA) on 3 October 2009.

In line with prosecutor H. Yüksel Ünal's recommendation, Judge Ahmet Alkan convicted Keskin, Batgi and Polat on 29 September under article 216 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK), which relates to inciting hatred and hostility among the public and humiliation of the public.

Furthermore, the court deprived Keskin, Batgi and Polat of their rights to seek public office, to carry out work for institutions and organisations, to vote and be elected, and to manage structures such as associations, foundations, companies, unions and parties.

On behalf of the Kurdish Writers Union (Kurdish PEN), Polat awarded a prize to Keskin at a panel covering the topic of "The Kurdish Question from yesterday till today, and its solutions". This is the offence for which Polat was convicted: "Indeed, before awarding this prize, if such an honest and brave person, a Kurd with Kurdish roots and in Kurdistan, can make a speech holding their head high, then this makes me very happy."

After her conviction Keskin stated, "I will always continue to defend all the oppressed individuals and the right of the Kurdish people to determine their own destiny. And I will always continue to criticise the Turkish military's dominance over civil politicians . . . Regarding the agenda of Turkey and Kurdistan . . . more than 200 cases have been opened against me to date, and another ruling against me was handed down now. I was penalised all those times for using the concept of Kurdistan, and I will continue to do so till the end."

In the sentencing, Batgi was quoted from one of his stand-up shows as saying the following: "Ecevit is in a coma, pray for Ecevit that nothing happens. I said something the other day, 'I am afraid I will see Kurdistan before I die' and I said, 'May god give you a lifetime of a thousand years so you can see four Kurdistans.'"

The court concluded that the words revealed "incitement of hatred and hostility partly among the public and partly against the public." The actions following the speeches showed "evidence of clearly emerging and immediate danger."

In a previous trial, the Gebze 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Keskin of a charge of using the term "Kurdistan." Keskin was also previously served with a subpoena by the Viransehir Criminal Court on the same allegations, resulting in the same decision on 20 November 2007.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
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  • Activist-lawyer receives criminal conviction over references to "Kurdistan"

    (BIANET/IFEX) - On 16 October 2007, the Penal Court in Viransehir, in the province of Sanliurfa in southeastern Turkey, convicted human rights activist and lawyer Eren Keskin to one year in prison for saying: "If we look at the state statistics on perpetrators of sexual violence in Turkey and Kurdistan, then soldiers are in the majority; the reason there are so many is the war in Kurdistan."



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