“Punishment for Peace Call Violates ECHR Case Law”


From Bianet, Erol Önderoglu reports from Diyarbakir:

Two Kurdish politicians have been convicted for a call for peace in which they used the word “guerilla” for PKK members.

The Diyarbakır 4th Heavy Penal Court yesterday (21 April) sentenced two Kurdish politicians to ten months imprisonment under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism Law.
10 months imprisonment

Osman Baydemir, mayor of the Greater Diyarbakır Municipality and Nejdet Atalay, province chair of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) that Baydemir is also a member of, have been convicted of spreading PKK propaganda.

The initial sentences handed down were one year imprisonment each, but head judge Hüsamettin Otçu reduced it to 10 months.

On 16 December 2008, prosecutor Mustafa Åžahin had argued for a punishment for Baydemir and Atalay. On 25 February 2008, they had taken part in a march organised in protest of ground operations by the Turkish Armed Forces in Northern Iraq and had made speeches.

What brought them to court was the use of the word “guerilla” for members of the PKK.

“No more deaths”

In a previous defence, Baydemir had 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. 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, who had been sentenced without detention, did not attend the hearing, but their lawyers Muharrem Erbey and Meral Danış Beştaş 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 trials that had ended in acquittal.

BeÅŸtaÅŸ 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.’”

Intention of speech ignored by court

She pointed out that case law of the European Court of Human Rights included hundreds of cases where it was decreed that no punishment should be handed down if there was no call for, encouragement of or invitiation to violence.

“The thought in the speech which calls for an end to conflict, violence and deaths is a serious belief and an invitation. It is terrible that the judiciary has chosen to interpret these words differently. While we were expecting progress in the judiciary, this kind of decision shows the opposite. We wonder if this is part of the operations against the DTP, if it is part of the concept.”

The lawyer said 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 blood flowing in the region for 30 years cannot be solved in the way the government thinks they can.”