(BIANET/IFEX) – On 21 April 2009, the 4th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakir sentenced two Kurdish politicians to ten months imprisonment under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism Law. Osman Baydemir, mayor of the Greater
Diyarbakir Municipality and Nejdet Atalay, provincial chair of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), of which Baydemir is also a member, were convicted of spreading propaganda over a call for peace in which they used the word "guerilla" in reference to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) members. Their lawyers argue that the intention of the speech has been ignored.

On 25 February 2008, Baydemir and Atalay took part in a march organised in protest of ground operations by the Turkish Armed Forces in Northern Iraq and made speeches. On 16 December 2008, they appeared in court, where
prosecutor Mustafa Sahin argued in favour of their punishment. The initial sentences handed down were one year imprisonment each, but judge Hüsamettin Otçu reduced them to 10 months.

In a previous defence, Baydemir said, "When I made that speech, my aim was to express my hopes and expectations for an end to the pain in the country, and to criticise  the action. I did not intend to commit a crime. As a sensitive citizen, I expressed the sorrow I felt for the deaths of police, soldiers, civilians and guerillas."

Baydemir and Atalay did not attend the sentencing hearing, but their lawyers Muharrem Erbey and Meral Danis Bestas were present. Erbey argued that the word "guerilla" had not been used as propaganda, and that the use
of the word could not be construed as a crime. He cited other  similar trials that had ended in acquittal.

Bestas told BIANET that the context of the speech, which called for peace, had not been considered. "A punishment was handed down for a speech in which they said, ‘No more police, soldiers, guerillas or civilians should die. My heart hurts. No one should die anymore.’"

She also pointed out that European Court of Human Rights case law included hundreds of cases where it was decreed that no punishment should be handed down if there was no call for, encouragement of or invitation to violence.
She wondered if this was part of the operations against the DTP.  She added that after consulting with her client they would decide whether to appeal.

Atalay had also said previously that the speech was not made with criminal intent, but "to show that the events and the 30 years of bloodshed in the region cannot be solved in the way the government thinks they can."

Updates the Baydemir and Atalay case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/99509

For further information contact Nadire Mater at BIANET, Faikpasa Yokusu, No. 41, Antikhane, Kat: 3, D.8-9, Cukurcuma, Beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey, tel: +90 212 251 1503, fax: +90 212 251 1609, e-mail: [email protected],
Internet: http://www.bianet.org