SOURCE: IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET), Istanbul
A campaign to free Zana has been started by rights activists – among them,
writers Bilgesu Erenus, Murathan Mungan, Seyhmus Diken and Ragip Zarakolu,
human rights activists Hürriyet Sener, Esber Yagmurdereli and Sebnem Korur
Fincanci, and journalists Inci Hekimoglu and Ragip Duran.
Speaking at a press briefing at the Chamber of Mechanical Engineers in
Istanbul on 16 March 2009, the group called on the Supreme Court of Appeals
to overturn the 10-year prison sentence, and on the Turkish Parliament to
lift all legal obstructions to freedom of expression.
The press briefing was attended by Eren Keskin and Leman Yurtsever from the
Human Rights Association (IHD), lawyers Ergin Cinmen and Ayse Batumlu,
writers Erol Özkoray and Nemciye Alpay, and conscientious objector Halil
The Diyarbakir Heavy Penal Court sentenced Zana to 10 years’ imprisonment
because of some of her speeches. For IHD’s Keskin, "The aim of the campaign
is to make sure that all ideas are freed in Turkey. We also demand that the
present impasse concerning the Kurdish question be solved and political
prisoners be freed. As long as people are tried for dissident thoughts,
there can be no democratisation."
IHD representative Yurtsever read another part of the statement: "Leyla has
been given 10 more years’ imprisonment for speeches she made. Her file is
at the Supreme Court of Appeals. Let us not allow this to happen this time.
As long as Leyla Zana, and other dissidents, are in prison, we will not be
The Supreme Court of Appeals should consider the European Court of Human
Rights case law, Cinmen continued: "Expression of thought is the most
important freedom. Without freedom of expression, there can be no democracy
or law. There can be no application of democratisation policies. What we
ask from the Supreme Court of Appeals is that it applies the case law of
the European Court of Human Rights. Laws that restrict the freedom of
expression must be abolished in parliament."
"Freedom of expression is not just any freedom – it is the basis for
democracy," continued Özkoray. "Without freedom of expression and thought,
no democracy can be founded. The penalties under Article 26 of the
Constitution must be abolished. We expect the Supreme Court of Appeals to
apply Article 90 of the Constitution, which accepts the superior claim of
international agreements. If judges apply this article, then we can have
freedom of expression in Turkey."
Laywer Batumlu added that freedom of expression could not be guaranteed
only with laws. "Regulations are important, but the basic issue is one of
practice. For instance, no court cases are opened (to prosecute those who
spout) the racist slogan ‘Love the country or leave it’, but all dissident
thoughts can be punished. This is a problem of mentality. There must be no
limit to the freedom of expression."
The campaign organisers called on others to support the campaign on the
In December 2008, the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakir sentenced Zana,
a member of the defunct Democracy Party (DEP), to 10 years’ imprisonment
for "being a member of a terrorist organisation" under Article 314/2 of the
Turkish Penal Code. The court also decided to deprive Zana of the right to
vote and be elected, and other political rights.
According to broadcaster Ntvmsnbc, the court reached its decision without
the presence of Zana’s lawyer, who could not join the hearing.
Zana was in prison between 1994 and 2004 for her activities as a Kurdish
activist. She received an additional two-year prison term over an article
she wrote in 1998 while in jail. She is famous in Turkey as the country’s
first ever Kurdish woman to be elected to Turkey’s parliament.
Updates the Zana case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/99200
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