Leyla Zana, a well know political advocate for the Turkish Kurds has been sentenced to two years imprisonment by a Turkish Court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir. The courts judgment said she violated Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism Law by making a speech at a Kurdish Nevruz Festival which took place in 2007, in which she said that Kurdish people had three leaders, the Iraqi Kurds Jalal Talbani and Massoud Barzani and the imprisoned leader of the PKK Abdullah Ocalan.*
Leyla Zana, a former member of the Turkish parliament for the mainly Kurdish, Democracy Party (DEP), said during her court hearing that she was being tried for her thoughts, which was something that brought shame on Turkish democracy. “It is a shame in the name of Turkish democracy that I have appeared before the judge for my thoughts.” The court, upon hearing Ms Zana’s five-page defense, ruled in favor of a two-year prison sentence in accordance with Article 7/2 of the Counter-terrorism Act for “spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization.”
In 1994, after the DEP was banned under the same law that is now being used against Turkeys governing party the AK Party, her parliamentary immunity was lifted and she was sentenced with four other Democracy Party MPs to 15 years in prison, even though the prosecution relied on witness statements allegedly obtained under torture. She was recognized as a “Prisoner of Conscience” by Amnesty International and in 2002 a judgement in the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Turkey after a review of her trial. Despite this judgement it was not until 2004 that the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals eventually ordered that Leyla and her Co-accused be released from prison, and by that time she had served ten years in Jail.
Her indomitable spirit unbroken by her ten years of confinement as a political prisoner, on being released she immediately threw herself into human rights and political work. She became one of the founders of the Democratic Society Party, (DTP) which was a successor to a long list of banned Turkish/Kurdish political party’s.
* It is illegal in Turkey to mention favorably the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, (PKK) its leader and display flags and logos of that organization.