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Lawyer sentenced for "spreading propaganda"

(BIANET/IFEX) - 1 August 2011 - Mehmet Bayraktar, the lawyer of imprisoned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, has been sentenced to imprisonment of one year after delivering greetings from the imprisoned leader at a meeting.

Bayraktar, who is also the former İzmir Provincial Chair of the defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP), was sentenced on charges of "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization".

Ocalan, the leader of the outlawed PKK, has been imprisoned since 1999.

Authorities launched an investigation into the lawyer's remarks after he delivered Ocalan's greetings in a speech made in Kurdish at a meeting in the Karayazi district of Erzurum (eastern Anatolia), in 2009. A case was opened and eventually resulted in Bayraktar's conviction.

The lawyer was quoted as saying in his speech, "My brothers, sisters and mothers. The ones who committed themselves to the mountains [PKK] with their heart and souls, I am passing on to all Kurds the greetings of Abdullah Ocalan, who struggles for your freedom."

Bayraktar was initially facing a prison term of up to five years for his remarks. But on 1 August, the Erzurum 2nd High Criminal Court decided on a one-year prison sentence. The court dismissed a request to suspend the sentence and the file was forwarded to the Court of Appeals.

Bayraktar claimed at the final hearing that delivering greetings was not a crime.

"My speech was about the Kurdish question in this country, about peace and brotherhood. I do not accept the charges put up against me. I was the lawyer for Abdullah Ocalan (. . .) I had kind regards to pass on to the people. (. . .) Considering my speech as a whole, it will be understood that I did not intend to praise crime nor a criminal nor to make propaganda. I request that the court decide in favour of my acquittal."

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