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Concern over ongoing judicial persecution of pro-Kurdish politicians

(BIANET/IFEX) - On 22 November 2010, Nejdet Atalay, the mayor of the province of Batman, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. He was convicted after he referred to Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), as "respectable" and "the leader of the Kurdish people." Batman is located in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of the country.

The Diyarbakir 4th High Criminal Court based its verdict on an interview Atalay gave to a local newspaper in Batman in 2009. He was charged with "spreading propaganda for the PKK ".

According to "Gunluk" newspaper, Atalay did not attend the final hearing but was represented by his lawyer, Mustafa Yildiz. The court found Atalay guilty of violating Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (making propaganda for illegal organizations) and sentenced him to two and a half years in jail.

Yildiz announced that his client would appeal the conviction. "If the court's decision is upheld, then we will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights", he said.

In a separate case, Mehmet Serif Gencdal, spokesman for the Group for a Peaceful and Democratic Solution (of the Kurdish question), received a 20-month prison sentence under similar charges.

The same court found Gencdal guilty of "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization". The allegations in this case stemmed from a speech the defendant gave in Cizre after he had entered the country from northern Iraq via the Habur check point. The "Gunluk" paper reported that Gencdal and his lawyer Ferda Miran had not been notified of the date of the hearing and thus were not able to appear at court.

Meanwhile, a total of 554 police records have piled up in numerous cases against 19 deputies of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). They are charged for speaking Kurdish in parliament and for seeking a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish question. BDP members are facing prison sentences of up to 2,473 years in total.

Emine Ayna, BDP member of parliament for Mardin (southeastern Anatolia), is one of the party's representatives with the highest number of police records. She is facing a prison sentence of up to 335 years in total based on 69 police records. Ozdal Ucer, member of parliament for Van (southeastern Turkey), faces 57 police records. Sirnak Member of Parliament Sevahir Bayindir also faces a large number of complaints.

The former co-chairs of the banned Democratic Society Party (DTP), Ahmet Turk and Aysel Tugluk, are facing prison sentences of up to 139.5 years in total. After the Constitutional Court banned the pro-Kurdish political party, DTP members, including Turk and Tugluk, lost their status as members of parliament.

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