Release jailed Kurdish deputies

Press release

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation against torture (OMCT) today wrote to the Turkish authorities to ask for the immediate and unconditional release of former deputies Selim Sadak, Hadip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Leyla Zana, the 1995 Sakharov Price’s winner, sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 1994 for speaking on behalf of the Kurdish people in Turkey.

On April 26, the Ankara State Security Court n°1 (DGM) postponed once again the hearing in the trial of the former Turkish DEP deputies. The four defendants appeared before the Ankara State Security Court (DGM) on Friday at 10.00 AM for the second time this year, and were represented by their lawyers, including Mr Yusuf Alatas, member of the Ankara bar association. In addition to the representative of the FIDH/OMCT, a large delegation of European deputies was present together with the Human Rights Commissioner of the German Foreign Office, Mrs Claudia Roth.

The FIDH and the OMCT who sent a trial observer to attend this hearing said they were "alarmed to witness repeated delays in this trial, as well as obvious violations of the rights of the defence, which give evidence of continuing malfunctioning of the judicial system in Turkey despite recent legal reforms adopted by Turkey in the framework of EU accession". The observer indeed noticed restrictions placed upon the lawyers’ ability to question the witnesses during the hearing.

"The FIDH and the OMCT welcome and support Turkey’s recent efforts and legal amendments reforms". As part of the August package, broadcasting and education in languages other than Turkish have now been authorised. However, "very few concrete changes in practice are as yet apparent in Turkey", the two organisations said.

Legal offensives against pro-Kurdish parties indeed continue. The country’s two principles pro-Kurdish parties, HADEP and DEHAP are at risk. On March 13, the Turkish Constitutional Court banned the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP - pro-Kurdish). On the same day the Public Prosecutor attached to the Constitutional Court requested the Court to ban the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP).

"The FIDH and the OMCT recall that, as a candidate for membership of the EU, Turkey is under an obligation to guarantee the normal and unimpeded functioning of political parties and take steps to uphold the right to free elections and democracy".

Furthermore, many of the recent reforms require the adoption of regulations or other administrative measures and enforcement of the law against perpetrators of violations. Certain practical safeguards are still lacking. Despite the lifting of the State of Emergency Rules (OHAL Act number 2935) from the last two Kurdish provinces as of 30 November 2002, extraordinary powers are still in the hand of the coordinator Governor of the Region and local human rights organisations continue to report allegations of grave human rights violations in the South East. In addition, FIDH and OMCT are worried to note that since January 2003, 4 radios and 1 local television were suspended 180 days from broadcasting by the High Council for Radio and Televisions (RTÜK) despite of the recent authorisation of broadcasting and education in languages other than Turkish as part of the 3 August 2002 harmonisation package. Until these measures are in place and implemented by executive and judicial bodies at different levels throughout the country, "Turkey will remain in breach of its most fundamental obligations under international human rights law and far from complying with the "acquis communautaire"".

"Turkey cannot expect to initiate negotiations on EU accession as long as political trials continue to take place in the country and the judicial system is not reformed in practice and as long as political prisoners are being detained", the two organisations said.

In light of these recent developments, the FIDH and the OMCT urged the Turkish authorities "to stop delaying the implementation in practice of legal reforms adopted in the framework of the adjustment packages".

Background information
Kurdish former deputies Leyla Zana, Hadip Dicle, Selim Sadak and Orhan Dogan were convicted on 8 December 1994 by the Ankara State Security Court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and sentenced to 15 years in prison for "being member of an armed gang".

On 4 February 2003, the ex-parliamentarians officially lodged an appeal with the Turkish authorities in line with a new law adopted by the Turkish Parliament authorising a fresh trial for prisoners whose sentences had been disallowed by the European Court of Human Rights. In its bid for EU membership, the Turkish government indeed adopted numerous reforms in August 2002, among them the right of Turkish citizens to judicial review of any verdict in a trial judged unfair by the ECHR.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in July 2001, that the ex-members of the Turkish parliament had received an unfair trial. The Court ruled indeed that there had been a violation of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights because the Ankara State Security Court, which included a military judge, was not "an independent and impartial tribunal". The Court further unanimously held that the applicants’ rights under Article 6 § 3 (a) and (b) had been violated in that they had not been informed in time of modifications to the charges against them and that they had not been able to have key witnesses questioned. In January, the Council of Europe had further called upon Ankara to review their trial in light of this development.

On 28 March, 2003, the hearing had already been postponed. The next hearing in the trial against the ex- parliamentarians will take place before the Ankara State Security Court n°1 on May 23, 2003.

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