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Deaf and mute protester sentenced to eight years' imprisonment

(BIANET/IFEX) - A court in the southern province of Adana sentenced speech and hearing impaired Mehmet Tahir Ilhan to eight years and four months in prison for spreading propaganda on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and sentenced Ugur K., another suspect in the same trial, to 11 years and 11 months in prison, according to the Firat news agency.

Mehmet Tahir Ilhan, 37, and Ugur K. had been in pre-trial detention for a year on the grounds they had attended a demonstration in the southern province of Mersin on April 2011.

Ilhan, a porter at the local food market, issued his plea in court through the a sign language translator and said that a friend of his among the demonstrators on the street had called him in, after he had encountered them by chance.

The police intervened in the crowd right at this time, he said, adding that he had purchased the scarf that bore red, green, cream and orange colors, and which he was wearing at the time of the demonstration, from the food market.

Ilhan also said that he was not involved in the stone throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks and requested that he be released on the grounds there was no one else to look after his family. Ugur K. also rejected the claims against him. The court went on to sentence Ilhan to eight years and four months behind bars on charges of “committing a crime on behalf of a terrorist organization without being a member,” “making propaganda for the PKK,” “resisting security forces to prevent them from fulfilling their duties” and “contravening the Law of Assembly and Demonstration” in accordance with the 314th article of the Turkish Penal Code and the Seventh article of the Anti-Terror Law. The court also sentenced Ugur K. to 11 years and 11 months in prison.

The prosecutor had requested a total of 25 years in prison for Ilhan. “He involuntarily mixed in with the demonstrators after he left the food market for home. I am in tatters with my children [now,]” said Necmiye Ilhan, his wife and a mother of six. Lawyer Tugay Bek also said the charges leveled against his hearing and speech impaired client were incompatible with reason and logic.

“Ilhan is hearing and speech impaired from birth, and he is illiterate. It is impossible for him to accompany the slogans. It is incompatible with reason and logic that such accusations be leveled against the suspect who has absolutely no physical capacity to spread propaganda for the [PKK,]” Lawyer Bek said, adding they were going to appeal the verdict.

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