EU urges Turkey to protect freedom of speech while fighting against terrorism

20 August 2012 / TODAYSZAMAN.COM, – The European Union has urged Turkey to protect freedom of speech of politicians while fighting against terrorism as Turkey overhauled a controversial law charging speeches courts considered terrorism propaganda.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle said in a statement as he was responding to a question of a member of the European Parliament that Turkey must protect freedom of expression to effectively fight against terrorism. Füle urged Turkey to amend laws that will limit courts’ what he said “broad interpretation of terrorism” and said the laws must clearly separate opinions between those promoting violence and others.

Füle was responding to the question of Greek Cypriot parliamentarian Antigoni Papadopulo, who said Kurdish politician Leyla Zana was charged again for nine of her speeches, including the one she delivered at the European Parliament, and that her conviction is a standard precedent for other Kurdish politicians and activists to be charged. He noted that Zana’s conviction is a violation of basic freedoms in Turkey and it is a clear evidence of how criminal courts punish freedom of speech.

Zana, an independent pro-Kurdish deputy from Diyarbakır, was sentenced in May this year to 10 years in prison on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization and spreading its propaganda in a series of speeches she made over four years ago.

The Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court sentenced Zana to a decade in prison for speeches she made on nine separate occasions, saying that her actions and activities have reached the level of membership in the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which requires a 10-year jail sentence in line with Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The court said in its decision that, based on Zana’s testimony and speeches made outside the courthouse, it is clear she does not acknowledge the PKK as a terrorist organization and that she sees jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan as the leader of the Kurds.

Furthermore, the court asserted that Zana sees the PKK’s terrorist activities as part of a fight for “freedom and democracy.” Zana had already been convicted for the same nine speeches she made between 2007 and 2008 at news conferences and public meetings, but her conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals on the grounds that she had not had an adequate opportunity to defend herself. She was given a fresh trial in Diyarbakır, resulting in 10-year jail sentence.

Füle said that the European Commission is concerned over the latest conviction of Zana, extending the EU’s support for its fight against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party.