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Former party members receive prison sentences for speaking Kurdish during election campaign

(BIANET/IFEX) - 9 June 2010 - The Magistrate Criminal Court of Midyat, in the southeastern province of Mardin, handed down a six-month prison sentence each to three former members of the dissolved Democratic Society Party (DTP), namely former Midyat mayoral candidate Yüksel Aslan Acer, Midyat Provincial Chair Abdulaziz Bilgin and party member Süleyman Tekin. The members of the pro-Kurdish DTP, which was closed by the Constitutional Court in December 2009, were sentenced for speaking Kurdish in a meeting during the run-up to the elections.

The case was filed against the three politicians after a 29 March 2009 meeting on the grounds of "committing a criminal offence by violating the laws related to oral and written election propaganda to be made in Turkish only".

During the hearing held on 3 June, the court decreed that a violation of Law no. 298 on Basic Decrees of Elections and Electorate Registers was committed. The six-month sentences were suspended.

Acer said in his defence that the speeches subject to the trial were in fact speeches made during the election meeting. He emphasized that the part on election propaganda was entirely made in Turkish. Only the initial greeting of the electorate was made in Turkish, Kurdish, and in the Syriac and the Mihellemi languages since people of different cultures using different languages are living together in that electoral district, the former mayoral candidate claimed. However, the court was not convinced by Acer's defence.

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