Posted by: hevallo | April 14, 2009

Leyla Zana: Her Only Crime, like most Kurds in Turkish Prisons, is to Seek Kurdish Rights!



Margaret Owen. Member Bar Human Rights Committee. Adviser on Womens’ and Children’s Rights to the KHRP.

Representing, as Observer, Peace in Kurdistan and the KNK.

Leyla Zana appeared in the Diyabakir Court on March 31st to answer charges that she is a terrorist, praises crime and undertakes propaganda for an illegal organisation (the PKK). She is indicted under the Anti-Terror Law and under certain articles of the Turkish Penal Code (TPC), as evidenced by her speeches made abroad between 2007 and 2008.

Over a hundred foreign observers many from Germany and Italy, and others from Sweden, the UK and representing the European Parliament and the Commission) had come to attend the trial, which was due to open at However, since only 2 days earlier the DTP had won a resounding victory against the AKP and other parties in the local elections in the South-East, and tensions were running high, which were thought might severely influence the judge and prosecutor in the case, the defence lawyers sought and obtained an adjournment to June 2nd.

The judge accepted Leyla’s lawyers’ plea that they needed further time to formulate the defence. Nevertheless there was still a short hearing.

As always (to a UK observer) the physical geography of the court room both shocks and surprises, since it seems to reflect the Kafkaesque features of the Turkish judicial system.

High up behind the platform sit 4 people in it seemed, identical judges’ robes; but the one sitting close to the central figure, the chief judge, is in fact the Prosecutor.

On the other side are the two other judges who appear to take little part in any discussions on the bench, show little interest in what is said, while they twiddle with the mouse on the laptop. (Could they be playing solitaire?)

Lower down in the court-room, to one side, sit the defence lawyers, Meral Bestos, Muharrum Erbey and another. Visually there is clear inequality between prosecution and defence, and the proximity of prosecutor to judge raises questions of course about the independence of the judiciary and the fairness of any trial given this scenario.

Although we had been told that an adjournment had been granted, there was still a short hearing in which Leyla Zana read out, in turkish, (or rather repeated) the speech she had made as her defence to her prosecution in April, 2008 for the speech she had made at the Newroz of 2007, defending her defence.

She said “Respectable Judges, I would like first to point out that I consider it a disgrace for the democracy of Turkey that I am being tried because of my thoughts.

The fact that expression of thought is being considered within the scope of the fight against terrorism underscores yet another topical and burning issue.

It is a fact that to be able to express one’s thought is a guarantee of all other freedoms”.

She spoke about fundamental rights of the Kurds to freedom of expression, assembly and of their language rights.

She also described Abdulla Ocalan as being the “the heart and brain of the Kurdish people”.

Concluding she said “I would also like to take this opportunity to announce an important decision of mine. From now on, whatever the “charge” may be, I am thinking of not using my right to defend myself in trials.

I believe in the senselessness of repeating ourselves.

I wish for a process where an evolution of thought has been completed in which our people will not be suspects , defendant or prisoners because of their thoughts”.

After the adjournment the observers were invite to a lunch with her lawyers, and later on the day the UK delegation, and Stefano Squarcina had a further meeting with Muharrem Erbey.

There we learnt more detail about the danger for Leyla Zana of the indictments under a combination of laws, under both the TPC and the Anti-Terror Law. Under the TPC, Article 304 para.2 and Article 220 para. 6 in particular.

The latter spells out that even if a defendant is not an active member of an illegal (terrorist) organisation, and does no work on its behalf, if he or she “ acts like a member” the charge of terrorism can be sustained.

TPC Article 222 para. 4 provides for the Prosecutor to appeal when he considers the court has given an inadequate and too lenient a sentence.

Whilst the charges arising from the speeches made between 2007 and 2008 outside the jurisdiction but recorded and circulated in the country ( including one made at a meeting held at a House of Lords Committee room last summer, 2008), will be prosecuted on June 2nd, Leyla Zana also faces an appeal, by the Prosecutor, at the Court of Cassation in Ankara, against the sentence of 10 years imprisonment for other speeches and writings on the grounds that the sentence is “not enough” for a conviction on both providing propaganda for an illegal organisation and for being a member of a terrorist group.

He is asking for a further 23 years.

However, Leyla’s lawyers emphasized that the hearing on June 2nd. is the crucial one, rather than the Ankara appeal, for which no date is expected to be given for another 4 or 5 months.

They earnestly request the presence of foreign lawyers to observe this hearing, and hope that the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) can be persuaded to send observers to report on the fairness of this coming trial.

Margaret Owen. Adviser to the KHRP on Women’s and Children’s Rights. Member of UK Bar Human Rights Committee.

Peace in Kurdistan Campaign:

Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish question.
44 Ainger Road, London, NW3 3AT

Rachel Bird – Tel: 020 7272 4131 Estella Schmid – Tel: 020 7586 5892

Patrons: Lord Avebury, John Austin MP, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, John Bowis MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Edward Albee, Mark Thomas


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