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Lawyer on trial for comments on Kurdish question

(BIANET/IFEX) - The former president of the Adana Branch of the Contemporary Lawyers Association (CHD), Siar Risvanoglu, who is also the editorial manager of the "Gercek" (Truth) newspaper and "Devrimci Marksizm" (Revolutionary Marxism) magazine, is facing charges of "crimes of thought". Risvanoglu is know for advocating for/representing those accused of "crimes of thought" but is now himself facing the same charges.

Risvanoglu has pleaded the cases of writers Temel Demirer, Sibel Ozbudun and Sungur Savran, who had similar charges laid against them. He was also involved in cases concerning Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink, Ugur Kaymaz and the Semdinli bombing, all of which received significant public interest. This time, it will be Risvanoglu himself who is in the dock of the Special Authority High Criminal Court.

Risvanoglu will be tried at the Special Authority 6th High Criminal Court of Adana (located on the eastern Mediterranean coast) on 16 September 2010. The Adana Lawyers Initiative for Freedom of Thought issued a statement in support of Risvanoglu. They called on all progressive and democratic lawyers and the revolutionary public to support the lawyer's defence.

Charges of "praising crime and a criminal" had previously been pressed against Risvanoglu in connection with his article entitled "The Kurdish people are on their feet . . . Listen to their voice", published in the "Isci Mucadelesi" (Worker's Struggle) magazine in November 2008. He was acquitted of the charges.

Three investigations have been launched into different speeches made by Risvanoglu. They are: his utterances in a program on the Kurdish ROJ TV channel, a speech delivered on 21 February 2010 at the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Yüregir District Congress and a press release related to Metin Alatas, the distributor of the Kurdish daily "Azadiya Welat", who was found hanging in a tree in an orange plantation in Adana in April.

While the investigations into the speech and the press release were dropped, a case was opened with astronomical speed based on the opinions Risvanoglu voiced in different programs in which he appeared on ROJ TV between 1-3 May. The first hearing was scheduled very promptly for 16 September. In the program on 3 May, he said, "A commission is required to confidentially investigate all political murders in Kurdistan, all conspiracies, the massacres of the Botas death wells, mass murders and rapes."

In his defence, Risvanoglu criticized the imprecision of the investigation saying that "hegemonic" was written as "phagomanic", and the terms "socialism", "postmodernist" and "internationalist" were misspelled as well and thus distorted in their meaning. He said that his utterances were taken out of context,

Prosecutor Mehmet Duzgun stated that Risvanoglu referred to the group from Habur (refugees affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK) as a "Peace Group" and that he called imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan the "leader of the Kurds." The prosecutor demanded a sentence on three counts according to Article 220 of the Turkish Criminal Law (TCK), under charges of "spreading propaganda for the PKK or the organization's aims". Risvanoglu is facing imprisonment of up to 13.5 years.

Additionally, the Ministry of the Interior opened another case against the lawyer, claiming TL 10,000 (approx. €5,000) in compensation for "harm to honour and dignity with a press release".

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