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Politician sentenced to 15 years in prison for campaign speeches

(BIANET/IFEX) – 30 March 2012 – Serafettin Halis, former Deputy of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Tunceli, was convicted of "membership in an illegal organization" and "making propaganda for an illegal organization" and sentenced to 15 and a half years in prison. The verdict was handed down by the Malatya Special Authority 3rd High Criminal Court on 28 March.

The sentence stems from seven speeches Halis delivered during the run-up to the elections on 12 June 2011 and in the years 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Halis's lawyer, Hasan Dogan, claimed the speeches were within the scope of "freedom of expression" and therefore requested that his client be acquitted of the charges. However, the court evaluated the speeches in the scope of "membership in an illegal organization and spreading propaganda for the organization."

Dogan said Halis's sentence was contrary to the law and announced his intention to file an appeal.

Halis told the press that the speeches were made in his capacity as an elected official, and that he is being prosecuted for speaking to his constituents: "Trials were opened against me on the grounds of speeches I made at meetings and press releases in Dersim, which was my election district when I was a parliamentarian. Seven of these trials were decided yesterday. Even Members of Parliament are being investigated in Turkey nowadays. Wherever I made a speech, a file was prepared about me."

"I did nothing else but talking to my electorate and giving information. Every meeting that I attended on behalf of my party was accounted for as an offence. There is nothing to say anymore. There are still another 20 files pending against me. Let's see how many more years will come out of that."

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