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Diyarbakir mayor faces up to three years in jail for speech

(BIANET/IFEX) - Mayor Osman Baydemir of the Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality, in the predominantly Kurdish region of south-eastern Turkey, has been charged for giving a speech that harshly criticised an operation against the Democratic Confederation of Kurdistan (KCK), an outlawed umbrella organisation that includes the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The operation was carried out in 11 provinces in December 2009. Baydemir cursed in his speech.

Baydemir is being prosecuted under Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code on charges of "insulting Turkishness". If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison.

According to the indictment, a total of seven people filed a complaint against Baydemir: three people from Samsun (Black Sea coast), one from Edirne (Thrace), one from Istanbul, one person residing in Balikesir (southern coast of the Sea of Marmara) and one person detained in the Tekirdag Closed Prison (Thrace). The complainants are merely mentioned as "plaintiffs" in the indictment.

Baydemir is a member of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). The prosecution stems from a press release he delivered in the Diyarbakir Provincial Building of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), which was closed down by a decision of the Constitutional Court in 2009. In his statement made on 25 December 2009, Baydemir referred to the KCK operations in 11 provinces and criticized the categorization of "hawks" and "doves" in this context. He said, "Damn the ones who are saying this," using a rather rude Turkish expression.

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