Freedom of Association – closure of the Democratic Society Party
In a case that underlined the need for Turkey to amend its laws on political
parties which fail to uphold international standards on freedom of association,
the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the closure of the pro-Kurdish
Democratic Society Party (DTP). In the judgment on 11 December, the panel
of judges voted unanimously for the closure of the DTP which itself had been
formed following the issuing of legal proceedings for the closure of the
Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP). In addition to closing the political party,
the Court ruled that 37 members of the party be banned from politics for a
period of five years. Individuals banned from politics included two of the DTP’s
21 elected members of parliament: the DTP co-chair Ahmet Türk MP and
Aysel Tuğluk MP, four elected regional mayors and other party officials and
members. Amnesty International (AI) issued a statement criticizing the closure
and calling for Turkey’s laws on political parties to be brought in line with
international standards on freedom of association (Index: EUR 44/007/2009).1
The remaining members of the Democratic Society Party parliamentary group
reformed as the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) together with Ufuk Uras, an
independent MP representing an Istanbul constituency.
Widespread and often violent demonstrations across Turkey followed the
decision of the Constitutional Court to ban the DTP. Following the protests,
there were allegations of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials
and reports of hundreds of arrests of demonstrators.
Prosecution of children under anti-terrorism legislation
In a letter to the Minister of Justice in July, AI expressed the organization’s
concerns regarding the continuing prosecutions of children under antiterrorism
legislation. AI received widespread allegations of ill-treatment and
excessive use of force by law enforcement officials during the often violent
1 For more information see Amnesty International, Turkey: Constitutional Court rules in favour of
closure of pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, Index: EUR 44/007/2009). Available at
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR44/007/2009/en.
Concerns in Turkey – July to December 2009 3
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demonstrations regarding the “Kurdish problem” and allegations of illtreatment
in prison of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. AI noted that thousands of
children had been arrested in relation to the demonstrations and faced
prosecution under anti-terrorism legislation.
In particular, AI raised concerns regarding the apparent arbitrary application of
anti-terrorism legislation in the prosecutions of children, leading in many cases
to convictions with long custodial sentences. Children were frequently
prosecuted under the anti-terrorism law (terörle mücadele kanunu, no. 3713),
specifically Article 7/2 which criminalizes making propaganda for a terrorist
organization, and additionally under Article 314/2 of the Penal Code via Article
220/6 of the Penal Code that allows those who commit crimes in the name of
a terrorist organization to be prosecuted additionally as if they were members
of the organization. This application of the law followed the jurisprudence of
the Supreme Court of Appeals (Judgment no. 2008/11): after considering the
tactics of the PKK to make use of civil disobedience, the Court ruled that in
demonstrations publicized by media organizations regarded by the Turkish
state to be associated with the PKK, such as Roj TV and Fırat News Agency,
those that participate in demonstrations could be said to be acting on behalf of
a terrorist organization.
In the letter, AI also expressed concerns that this application of anti-terrorism
legislation allowed the courts to convict children for terrorist offences without
sufficient evidence and that the legislation required urgent review. In the cases
reviewed by AI and according to lawyers representing children, in the vast
majority of cases children were convicted of the terrorist offence under which
they were charged. Evidence leading to the conviction was commonly CCTV
footage showing that they were present at the demonstrations or photographs
showing that that they made “V-for victory” signs during the demonstrations.
In many cases, however, the sole piece of evidence was the statement of a
police officer that the child was present at the demonstration and that they
shouted slogans in support of the PKK. In a small minority of cases the sole
piece of evidence was the statement of a secret witness who could not be
cross-examined in court.
AI expressed its grave concern that there had been consistent accounts of
torture and other ill-treatment of children on transfer to prison and that in
some cases children had been held together with adults. AI also expressed
4 Concerns in Turkey – July to December 2009
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concerns that children prosecuted under anti-terrorism legislation were
routinely held in pre-trial detention for extended periods of time without any
provision for them to continue their education and, in contravention of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Turkey is a party.
In Diyarbakır, pre-trial detention periods were often six months; in Adana a
period of three months was more common. However, pre-trial detention periods
of more than one year were recorded. In some cases children had been held
together with adult remand prisoners, with boys in Batman and girls in Adana
reportedly subjected to this prison regime. Where children were held separately
from adults, the prison regime did not differ from the one for adults. The
children were reportedly made to wash their own clothes and dishes. In many
cases a detention period of three months led to children missing a year of
schooling after they were required to re-sit their school year due to missing
classes. In Adana, Amnesty International interviewed children who complained
of severe beatings on transfer to Kükçüler adult prison. Such reports were
made consistently by children previously held at the prison suggesting
systematic ill-treatment. It was reported by children that they spent periods of
more than one week in solitary confinement at the adult prison before being
transferred to a children’s prison.
AI also expressed concerns that anti-terrorism legislation allowed children as
young as 15 to be tried in adult courts according to the same procedures as
adults and that official court records showed that children as young as 12 had
been tried in adult courts under the same procedures as adults in
contravention of Turkey’s child protection law (no.5395) and the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to the anti-terrorism law
(Article 9), children aged 15 years and above are to be tried in adult courts
(special heavy penal courts) for terrorism-related offences.
In September the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) issued a
series of recommendations to Turkey regarding the prosecution of children
under anti-terrorism legislation in order to bring the state’s practice in line with
the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In November the government
submitted to parliament a draft bill amending the anti-terrorism law. The
government proposals, if brought into law, would allow for more lenient
sentencing of children convicted under the anti-terrorism law and remove the
requirement for children over 15 years old accused of terrorism-related
Concerns in Turkey – July to December 2009 5
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offences to be tried in adult courts. These amendments alone, if brought into
law, would not allay the concerns expressed by the CRC, AI or civil society
more broadly regarding the prosecutions. The amendments had not been
passed by the parliament by the end of 2009.
On 1 December AI launched a campaign calling on the Turkish authorities to
comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international
standards on juvenile justice and to conduct prompt, effective and impartial
investigations into allegations that law enforcement officials and prison guards
have ill-treated children.2
Human rights defenders
On 24 December Muharrem Erbey, Vice-President of the Human Rights
Association (İHD) and President of the Diyarbakır Branch of İHD in southeastern
Turkey, was taken into custody by anti-terrorism units of the Diyarbakir
police. Muharrem Erbey was detained apparently on the basis of links to the
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) through his alleged membership of the
Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). 3 On the same day, his home, office and
the Diyarbakir Branch of İHD were searched by anti-terrorism police units. AI
was concerned that he may have been targeted due to his work as a human
rights defender and considered him to be a possible prisoner of conscience.
In addition to Muharrem Erbey more than 30 others were detained, including
nine elected mayors of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party. The
detentions came two weeks after the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of
closing the Democratic Society Party, the predecessor of the Peace and
Democracy Party.
Official records showed that during his interrogation by a public prosecutor,
Muharrem Erbey was questioned on his activities for İHD. The association told
AI that information seized by police during the raid of the Diyarbakır Branch of
the Human Rights Association included confidential information provided by
individuals regarding alleged human rights abuses by members of the security
2 For more information see Amnesty International, The Wire, December 2009/January 2010, NWS
21/006/2009. Available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/NWS21/006/2009/en
3 Prosecutors allege that KCK is an organization formed by the PKK to bring together and mobilize
pro-PKK groups within urban areas across Turkey
6 Concerns in Turkey – July to December 2009
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forces. Computer hard disks taken during the raid by police were not returned
to the İHD by the end of December, hampering their human rights work.
AI was also concerned that Muharrem Erbey was not able to effectively
challenge the lawfulness of his continued pre-trial detention because of a
“secrecy decision” which blocks the disclosure of the evidence against him to
him or his lawyers. The measure which is commonly enforced in prosecutions
which are reported in the media is enacted by the judge following an
application from the prosecutor under Article 153 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure on the grounds that release of the documents would “jeopardise the
aims of the investigation”.
Torture and other ill-treatment – deaths in custody
Between July and December, at least five deaths in custody were reported.
In October 52-year-old Resul İlçin died a as a result of head injuries sustained
while in police detention in the south-eastern province of Sırnak. According to
information supplied to AI by the lawyer representing the family of Resul İlçin,
he and another man, Mehmet İlgin, were brought to the İdil District Security
Directorate by police officers during the night of 21 October after the car that
they were travelling in was stopped by the police. The following is account of
the developments, according to the criminal complaint brought against police
officers by the family of Resul İlçin. The two men were questioned by police for
more than one hour on the side of the road before being brought by police to
the İdil District Security Directorate. After their arrival at the security
directorate, Mehmet İlgin was questioned outside the main building, while
Resul İlçin was taken inside the building for questioning. About 10 or 15
minutes after their arrival at the security directorate, police officers told
Mehmet İlgin that Resul İlçin had fallen. Mehmet İlgin then entered the main
building of the security directorate and saw the body of Resul İlçin lying on the
ground at the entrance. Resul İlçin was then taken by police officers to the İdil
State Hospital before being transferred to the Cizre State Hospital where his
death was confirmed. An official autopsy report stated that he had multiple
head injuries and that there was bruising on various areas of Resul İlçin’s body.
Following the death, the governor of Sırnak province issued a statement
preceding the outcome of the authorities’ investigation into the incident,
stating that Resul İlçin’s death was caused by a fall and not as a result of illConcerns
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treatment. An investigation into the incident was continuing at the end of the
period under review.
The trial of 60 state officials accused of responsibility for the death in custody
of 29-year-old Engin Çeber continued.4 Three hearings were completed during
the period under review. AI sent trial observers to two of the hearings. During
the hearings, persons held in detention at Metris Prison in Istanbul at the time
that Engin Çeber was detained there and a lawyer present during Engin Çeber’s
detention at a police station in Istanbul gave witness statements to the court.
The former detainees testified to seeing Engin Çeber being beaten by
approximately 10 prison guards. The lawyer present at the police station
testified that Engin Çeber had injuries to his head and had trouble speaking as
a result of the beatings that he had suffered in police custody. The lawyer also
testified to seeing another detainee lying unconscious on the floor of the police
station after being allegedly beaten by police officers. The trial was continuing
at the end of the period under review.
Prison conditions – access to medical treatment
In July, AI wrote to the Turkish authorities to express concern that Güler Zere,
a prisoner at Adana Karatas Women’s Prison, had not been given access to
appropriate medical treatment as required under international human rights
standards including the UN Standard Minimum rules for the Treatment of
Prisoners. Güler Zere had previously been diagnosed with a form of cancer. A
medical report seen by AI dated 22 June 2009 clearly states that Güler Zere
had a life-threatening illness, that she was dependent on the care of others
and that she could not receive appropriate treatment while remaining in prison.
Despite appeals from her lawyers for her prison sentence to be suspended, the
Institute of Forensic Medicine repeatedly failed to consent to her release from
prison. Güler Zere was eventually released from prison in November by
Presidential decree.
4 For more information see Amnesty International, Turkey: Justice for victim tortured to death in
custody, 15 January 2009 available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/turkeyjustice
victim-tortured-death-custody-20090115
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Prison conditions of Abdullah Öcalan
On 19 November AI issued a statement welcoming the government
announcement that PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan would henceforth be able to
associate with other prisoners after being held in isolation for 10 years on the
island of İmralı (Index: EUR 44/006/2009). During this time the organization
had repeatedly called on the Turkish authorities to bring his prison regime in
line with international standards applicable to all persons in detention. In the
statement AI also restated continuing concerns relating to prison regimes in
Turkey, including the non-implementation of prisoners’ rights to associate with
each other.5 Following his transfer to the new prison, Abdullah Öcalan issued
statements through his lawyers indicating that the conditions of his detention
had deteriorated and that regulations allowing him to associate with the five
other prisoners had not been fully implemented.
Impunity
In September a young teenager, Ceylan Önkol was killed in an explosion near
her home in the Lice district of south-eastern Turkey. According to witness
statements Ceylan Önkol was grazing cattle approximately 200 metres from her
home at the time of her death. Witnesses also reported hearing the sound of a
mortar coming from the direction of the nearby Tapantepe gendarmerie station
immediately before the sound of the explosion.
Following the explosion and the discovery of Ceylan Önkol’s body at the scene,
the local authorities were notified and a public prosecutor was requested to
come to the scene in order to investigate the incident. According to witness
reports supported by official documents, a public prosecutor did not arrive at
the scene until three days after the incident. No prompt and thorough crime
scene investigation was carried out at the scene. The judicial authorities cited
security reasons as preventing them from attending the scene. An investigation
into the cause of the death and another one about the failure of the officials to
come to the scene of the incident were continuing at the end of the period
under review.
5 For more information see Amnesty International, Turkey: Amnesty International welcomes
improvement in prison conditions of Abdullah Öcalan after 10 years in isolation, Index: EUR
44/006/2009.
Concerns in Turkey – July to December 2009 9
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In October the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that a gendarmerie officer
charged following a fatal shooting in the south-eastern province of Siirt should
face punishment. The ruling by the General Penal Board ( Ceza Genel Kurulu)
came after the local court had referred a previous judgment of the Supreme
Court of Appeals that the gendarmerie officer should be convicted and
sentenced according to the charge of killing through negligence (Taksirle
öldürme). As such it was the final appeal possible within the domestic legal
system. The shooting occurred when unarmed civilians chanted slogans and
threw stones at the officers’ vehicle. Although the court recorded that the
shooting was disproportionate, it ruled that it was inappropriate to punish the
officer because of “the gravity of the physical attack…, the fact that it
continued increasingly despite the warnings and the totality of the conditions
of the region”. It overturned the previous ruling of the court that the officer’s
fear, nerves and worry did not amount to circumstances in which the
conviction could be quashed.
The trial of seven police officers prosecuted following the shooting of Ferhat
Gerçek, a 19-year-old shot by police in October 2007 following a dispute over
the sale of a magazine, continued during the period under review. In addition
to the police officers, Ferhat Gerçek, who was left permanently paralyzed by
the shooting, was also being prosecuted in the same trial and faced up to 15
years in jail if convicted. AI sent a trial observer to the hearing in October
where it was revealed that police radio recordings relating to the incident had
been destroyed one year previously. AI remained concerned that due to this, in
addition to the previous loss of evidence by police officers and failures in the
investigation of the incident, the chances of bringing those responsible to
justice were remote.
Conscientious objection
In November, three soldiers were convicted of beating conscientious objector
Mehmet Bal in June 2008 and sentenced to three months’ and 10 days’
imprisonment. All four men had been prisoners in Hasdal military prison.
10 Concerns in Turkey – July to December 2009
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Neither the senior officer who allegedly ordered the attack on Mehmet Bal nor
any other official at the prison faced prosecution.6
In November four supporters of Mehmet Bal: Oğuz Sönmez, Mehmet Atak,
Gürsat Özdamar and Serkan Bayrak were acquitted of the charge of “alienating
the public from the institution of military service” (Article 318 of the Penal
Code). The prosecution had been launched following their participation at a
protest in support of Mehmet Bal in 2008. The trial of Sami Görendağ, Lezgin
Botan and Cüneyt Canıs, on charges brought under Article 318 following
similar protests, continued at the end of the period under review. If convicted
and imprisoned, AI would consider them to be prisoners of conscience.
In December conscientious objector Enver Aydemir was arrested and detained
in Istanbul following a routine identity check by police, which revealed an
outstanding arrest warrant against him. At the time of his arrest, Enver
Aydemir had been travelling to attend a conference on the right to
conscientious objection. Enver Aydemir had previously been prosecuted for his
refusal to perform compulsory military service in 2007 and had not
subsequently reported to the military unit to which he had been assigned,
resulting in the arrest warrant being issued. Enver Aydemir told his lawyers that
he was beaten with truncheons on arrival at Maltepe military prison in Istanbul
following his refusal to wear military clothing. After several days of detention,
Enver Aydemir was transferred to Eskisehir military prison where he remained
in pre-trial detention on charges of persistent insubordination and desertion at
the end of the period under review. AI considered him to be prisoner of
conscience.
Rights of refugees and asylum-seekers
In August AI wrote to the Minister of the Interior expressing concern that the
authorities continued to enforce fees for refugees’ and asylum-seekers’
residence permits which prevented access to economic and social rights such
as health services, education, adequate housing and work. Despite statements
6 For more information see Amnesty International, Soldiers convicted for ill-treatment of conscientious
objector in Turkey, 19 November 2009. Available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-andupdates/
news/soldiers-convicted-ill-treatment-conscientious-objector-turkey-20091119
Concerns in Turkey – July to December 2009 11
Amnesty International AI Index: EUR 44/004/2010
made by officials to representatives of NGOs in Turkey that the imposition of
fees would end, the imposition of fees continued at the end of December.
On 24 September AI issued a statement calling on the Turkish authorities to
release two Iranian refugees, who remained in detention despite a European
Court of Human Rights ruling earlier that week stating that their detention was
arbitrary, in violation of Article 5 of the European Convention of Human
Rights.7 In the case of Abdolkhani and Karimnia v. Turkey (no. 30471/08), the
Court ruled that Mohsen Abdolkhani and Hamid Karimnia had not been
informed of the reasons for their detention, that they had not been provided
access to a lawyer or an asylum procedure and that their detention was not
prescribed by law. A request for referral of the case to the Grand Chamber of
the European Court of Human Rights was pending at the end of the period
under review. AI had previously written to the Turkish authorities calling on
them to release the two men and others held under the same provisions. While
the two men were eventually released on 23 October, many more foreign
nationals remained in detention under provisions ruled unlawful by the Court.
On 27 October AI launched a campaign calling on the Turkish authorities to
release all persons held in detention under the provisions ruled unlawful by the
Court.8
In October AI issued a statement calling on the Turkish authorities to allow
refugees to return voluntarily to Turkey without fear of harassment and
discrimination. The refugees who are Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin had
began to return to Turkey from the UNHCR administered Mahmur refugee
camp in northern Iraq. Some 11,000 refugees remain in the camp that was
created to house persons who fled Turkey during the 1990s to escape human
7 For more information see Amnesty International, Iranian refugees still held in Turkey despite court
ruling, 24 September 2009. Available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/iranianrefugees
still-detained-turkey-despite-court-ruling-20090924, Amnesty International, Denied
protection: Refugees unlawfully detained, 27 October 2009. Available at
http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/denied-protection-turkey-refugees-unlawfully-detained
08
For more information and to take action see Amnesty International, Refugees denied protection in
Turkey – Refugees unlawfully detained. Available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-foraction/
denied-protection-turkey-refugees-unlawfully-detained-0
12 Concerns in Turkey – July to December 2009
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rights abuses following armed clashes between the outlawed Kurdish Workers
Party (PKK) and the Turkish army.9
International Justice
On 6 November AI issued a statement condemning Turkey’s invitation to
Sudanese President Omar al Bashir to attend a meeting of the Organization of
the Islamic Conference due to be held in Turkey, even though he is wanted by
the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes and crimes
against humanity. Turkish officials had stated that they would not arrest and
surrender President Omar al Bashir, contrary to the state’s obligations under
the UN Convention against Torture requiring it to open an investigation when
persons suspected of torture – without any limitation as to rank – are present
and to take them into custody or take other legal measures to ensure their
presence pending institution of criminal or extradition proceedings.10 Following
such concerns being raised both internationally and within Turkey, the
Sudanese authorities announced that President Omar al Bashir would not
travel to the meeting.
Workers’ rights
In July the indictment was presented in the case of more than 30 members of
the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) accused of
membership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). AI was concerned that the
evidence contained within the indictment regarded their union’s support for
Kurdish language rights and other legitimate union activities and did not
demonstrate their participation in or advocacy of violence. In November the 22
members of KESK who had been held in pre-trial detention were released
pending the outcome of the trial.
9 For more information see Amnesty International, Turkey: The right of refugees to return with dignity,
23 October 2009. Available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/turkey-rightrefugees
return-dignity-20091023
10 For more information see Amnesty International, Turkey: No safe haven for fugitive from
international justice, 9 November 2009. Available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/pressreleases/
turkey-no-safe-haven-fugitive-international-justice-20091106
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Also in December, more than 40 employees of the Turkish State Railways were
suspended following a one-day strike by union members regarding their right to
collective bargaining and right to strike. A spokesperson for Turkish State
Railways said that as state employees, they did not have the right to strike in
law and that the action taken was therefore illegal. Despite government
commitments to address the issue, national law failed to uphold public sector
workers’ right to strike as protected under International Labour Organization
(ILO) standards to which Turkey is a party. .
Trade union rights more broadly remained insufficiently protected in national
law. Despite government statements indicating that legal amendments aimed
at bringing national law into conformity with international standards on trade
union rights could be brought before Parliament, no progress was made during
the period under review. Earlier in the year, the International Labour
Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts had issued a series of
recommendations to the Turkish authorities to bring legislation into line with
ILO standards. In particular the Committee stressed the right to organize, the
right to strike and the right to bargain collectively, for both the private and
public sectors, as areas where national law failed to uphold ILO standards to
which Turkey is party. These recommendations had not been acted upon at the
end of the period under review.
Ilısu Dam (update to EUR 44/004/2009)
On 7 July Amnesty International issued a statement welcoming the decision of
the German, Swiss and Austrian governments to withdraw funding, provided
through their respective Export Credit Agencies (ECAs), to the Ilısu dam project
in Turkey. The three governments took the decision following independent
expert assessments concluding that the dam project had not met agreed
standards, including in relation to the social and environmental impacts of the
project (Index: EUR 44/004/2009).11
11 For more information see Amnesty International, Turkey: German, Swiss and Austrian governments
withdraw financial support for Turkey’s Ilısu dam project where human rights violations were a risk,
Index EUR 44/004/2009. Available at
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR44/004/2009/en/97023822-3748-4e9d-b4c8
02e056b9e98a/eur440042009en.html
14 Concerns in Turkey – July to December 2009
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Following the governments’ withdrawal of funding guarantees, government
officials stated that alternative sources of funding were being sought. Reports
later in the year indicated that construction work was continuing at the Ilısu
Dam site.
Universal Periodic Review submission
On 9 November Amnesty International submitted a written briefing on its
concerns about human rights violations in Turkey to the UN Universal Periodic
Review (UPR) ahead of the 8th session of the UPR Working Group, due to take
place in May 2010 (Index: EUR 44/005/2009). The document highlighted
Amnesty International’s concerns about violations to the right to freedom of
expression, the continued incidence of torture and other ill-treatment and
impunity for such human rights violations, unfair trials and the violations to the
rights of refugees and asylum-seekers.12
12 For more information see Amnesty International, Turkey: Submission to the UN Universal Periodic
Review: Eighth session of the UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council, May 2010, (EUR
44/005/2009). Available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR44/005/2009/en

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