ACTION IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

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From MEP Vittorio AGNOLETTO and MEP Feleknas UCA

TO: ALL MEMBERS OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
+ their assistants and advisers
+ info Cabinet of the President

***************************

Dear Members and Colleagues,

We just need some minutes of your time to inform you about the seriousness of the political situation in Turkey (as far as the Kurdish question is concerned) and about facts recently registered in Turkey, where a totally unacceptable repression has been lunched by the security forces and the so-called Turkish justice system …

1) … against the pro-Kurdish DTP party (“Democratic Society Party”). As you know, the DTP is a fully recognised, legitimate and legal party with an important parliamentary group in the Turkish Grand National Assembly; after an important victory of the DTP candidates in the recent local / regional election, the Ankara’s authorities launched a violent repression against Kurdish and DTP representatives; please note that until now, more than 300 DTP members, executives and activists, including the three DTP’s Vice-presidents are detained or involved in police operations (which are still going on)!

Only the DTP leader, Mr Ahmet Turk, a politician very well-known and very appreciated here in the European Parliament and abroad, is not -for the moment- under arrest. This political move by the Turkish police follows the impressive results of the DTP in the local elections on 29 March 2009, in which the party almost doubled the number of municipalities it won (from 56 to 98). Immediately after these results, a number of statements were made by representatives of the Turkish government and the security forces, for example regarding the success of the DTP! Against this background, the police action can only be seen as politically motivated. We therefore call on the Turkish authorities to respect the will of the people, expressed in the recent local elections, and to guarantee citizens their rights, especially freedom of activity for political parties in Turkey, in this instance the DTP, of other regional organisations, such as the Union of South-East municipalities, and of the media. Please find attached the formal DTP-Ankara statement of the 14th of April, plus a DTP-Brussels note / information on the most recent situation.

2) … against also (again and again) Mrs Leyla ZANA, European Parliament’s 1995 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Let us underline that Leyla Zana has been sentenced in December 2008 to ten years of prison for speeches she gave (even) in the EU European Parliament and the UK House of Lords! This is an unacceptable violation of her fundamentals rights and political freedom, inspired and orchestrated by the Turkish government: please note, for example, that she’s facing more than 35 investigations for simple declarations or speeches she made, she doesn’t even know how many trials she has to face! On March 31st, 2009, took place -in Diyarbakir- the last session of one of those trials. Mrs Leyla Zana is officially invited to address the European Parliament’s Conference of the Groups’ Presidents on the 30th of April, 2009, in Brussels; she will have the opportunity to inform our Parliament about her situation.Please find attached an (incomplete) “list of trials” she has to face (in one of those, the Turkish Prosecutor, not satisfied for a condemnation to 10 years of prison, is now asking for 50 years of prison…). Please also find the speech she made during the trail on the 31st of March; an informal report of a relevant member of the UK Bar Human Rights Committee is also attached.

We invite you and your groups to show your solidarity with these people and organisations, such as Mrs Leyla Zana and the DTP, which are fully involved in the promotion of a political solution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey. We’ll keep you informed on the situation, as far as on possible initiatives.

Thank you for your attention,

MEP Vittorio AGNOLETTO and MEP Feleknas UCA

Leyla Zana’s statement:

10 April 2008
Diyarbakır

TO: DİYARBAKIR CRIMINAL COURT

Respectable Judges,

I would first like 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 fact that to be able to express one’s thoughts is a guarantee for all other freedoms. Being deprived of the freedom of thought is synonymous with being deprived of the most basic human freedoms. In generally accepted terms, freedom of thought is borne out of the combination of three main elements: Freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom to disseminate one’s thoughts… The lack of one of these makes it impossible to talk about freedom of thought in any country. The said deficiency causes pluralism to be disregarded also. On the other hand, universal law has gone through an evolution whereby it has moved on from the idea of “the state comes first” to “man comes first”.

Whenever there is talk of the freedom of thought and its exercise, they always remind you that even in developed countries freedom of thought is not infinite and unrestricted. According to research done on this issue, “In almost all countries other than Turkey, the restriction brought on the expression of thought is based not on ‘the security of the state’ but on ‘social peace’ and the ‘security of the people’. Therefore, the claim that there are similar legal arrangements in other countries has no purpose other than distorting the issue.”

Respectable Chief Judge,

Kurdish people are one of the oldest indigenous settled peoples of the Middle East. Kurds living within the borders of Turkey-Iran-Iraq and Syria have been struggling for survival for the past 200 years. Kurds with a population of nearly 40 million, who have been subjected to many massacres during this time frame, have been deprived of all of their national and democratic rights. Despite the fact that some historians have observed that their population is larger than that, an objective census specifically for Kurds can not be carried out. Throughout one hundred year extending from Sheikh Mahmud Berzenci to Sheikh Said, from Seyid Riza to Melle Mustafa Barzani, from Mahabad uprising to the PKK, the Kurdish people have fought for their “status”.

Although Kurds, with a population of around 20 million within the borders of Turkey, who have remained ‘Turkish’ based on their legal description have tried all legal means in different periods, the democratic channels have never opened up at the desired level. The fact that Kurds’ democratic rights were not placed under constitutional safeguards when the Turkish Republic was founded and that they were not granted the right to express themselves in the legal domain, brought with it ‘resistance against oppression’.

The policy of “Divide-Fragment and Rule” and “Deny-Refuse and Destroy” brought about counter violence. The PKK emerged as a rebellion to the injustice entailing this dramatic pressure and destruction. The anti-democratic implementations developed with the justification that “throughout history Kurds rebelled 28 times, and PKK is the 29th rebellion and this rebellion will also be suppressed” were turned into a rigid official state policy. Changing times and various governments unfortunately could not change this policy. While those who were streamlined into the system became members of parliament, ministers, generals, high level bureaucrats, businessmen with money, property and wealth; those who denied assimilation and insisted on their national identity were victimised and considered as non-existent. They were pushed about, humiliated, and silenced by being confronted with an unchanging oppression.

While the shock of denial in the 1924 constitution was still not overcome, the injuries the democracy of Turkey suffered with regular military coups that took place every decade was felt most deeply among the Kurds. The inhuman treatment and severe human rights violations they suffered at the Diyarbakır Prison in particular became a milestone in the recent history of the Kurds. Probably because what they experienced was worse than fire, people placed their very bodies in fire.

Many things were tried: Kurdistan was turned into a place of exile, Kurds were turned into the “other”, state of emergency and martial law were imposed in the area for over 20 years, Kurdish was banned, the yellow-red-green colour combination was considered an offence, extra judicial killings were committed, villages were evacuated, village guard system was put in place. Even during civil disobedience actions entailing democratic demands, many of our people lost their lives for a life of freedom. While the perpetrators of these losses arising from uncontrolled use of force were not punished, Kurds were once again made targets through counter-guerrilla actions based on organisations of gangs and confessions. The feudal structure was strengthened by the support of state policy. Yet another method used for suppressing the demands of the people was to keep tribalism alive. Other important dimensions of this multifaceted problem include forced relocation from villages to urban areas, differences in regional development and inadequate provision of health and education services.

This wave of violence of course wasted many human, ecological and economic resources of the country. These implementations dating back to the beginning of the republic did not just result in numerical losses. Hearts that turned into places of devastation after fire, lives that were broken and lives without a trace slipped away from our hands.

As a result there is not a single Kurd that has not been offended in Turkey. Almost all started life with anxiety and prohibitions imposed on them. Even when they were still a baby, their name suffered prohibitions. During their childhood their language was banned and when they became young men and women their identity and their stance in life were placed under prohibitions. They were forced to think in a single language, express themselves through a single language and think from a single angle of perception. Lullabies their mothers sang to them, their fathers’ cultural characteristics and preferences were denigrated, their preferences ridiculed and they were pushed outside the society. This feeling of anxiety often forced them to speak their mother tongue secretly behind closed doors. They were moreover ridiculed for speaking the official state language with an accent. They were the brunt of jibes and ridicules. ‘Kurdishness’ which was revived due to political, sociological and psychological reasons, gradually turned into will power. The difficulties of being Kurdish in the public domain politicised each and every Kurdish youth ever more. Kurds who did not initially have this political awareness started questioning the reason for their suffering as time went on. From ‘individuals who were ashamed’ of their characteristics originating from their birth, a social awareness and demands that came along with that awareness were born. The burning fire that started off from a small ember started covering every place Kurds lived in without exception. Every prohibition, excluding behaviour or insult brought the mountains a little closer. In time, every Kurdish family started finding a piece of it in the mountains. Thus it became apparent that being “Kurdish” was nothing to be embarrassed about.

Respectable Judges,

Today, the reason for my being in this court has been described as praising crime and criminals and undertaking propaganda for an illegal organisation. I do not think we need to further analyse the legal aspect of this problem, which is in essence a constitutional problem. No democratic country can carry the burden of the 12th of September constitution developed by army generals and one which, let alone being the answer to the requisites of our age, exacerbates existing issues.

If the issue in hand is ‘crime’ and ‘praising criminals’, what is ‘crime’ and who is the ‘criminal’? I would like to state that I do not regard defending a people’s demands for respect, equality and freedom as a crime. My premise in this is not victimisation! In fact I have never adopted the policy of victimisation as a method for seeking rights. I have lived through experience showing that material force, power, and the might that comes with that power will never stand against the will of the people. The definitions of ‘crime’ and ‘criminal’ for those who approach the world on the basis of democracy, human rights and the will of the people are relative concepts. In fact the concepts of crime and criminal are delicate concepts on which universal agreement has not been reached throughout history. We all know that depending on periods, incidents and historical realities, the concepts of ‘crime’ and ‘criminal’ have undergone a process of update. The real crime is to meticulously distract attention from issues that need to be discussed in the democratic public opinion.

Reflecting reality and explaining it in a way different from what it really is, does not solve problems. It is not possible to explain and understand without talking. Then, we must open up ways and means of being able to discuss the issue. How much longer can one hide the truth or ignore it in an age when technology is advancing at a dizzying pace? The traditional ‘statist’ approach has gone bankrupt in the face of a world that has become much smaller. Social reality makes itself felt and compels one to accept it. It is amply clear that those who are regarded as ‘criminal’ in one part of society are regarded as a value in another part of that society.

The world becomes ever more divided and complex day by day. People fear uncertainty. Producing solutions for this division requires that faster decisions are taken against uncertainty. There is a growing need for contributions that underscore respect for differences.

Distinguished Judges,

In this context, developing societies need leaders that develop them. Leadership is a role. People need to be convinced about the leadership, creativity and problem solving power of the person who takes on that role. The leader must first convince people about the necessity of the cause that is being defended. It is difficult to strike a balance between yesterday, today and tomorrow. The leader is the one who builds bridges between the ‘today’ that we want to leave behind and the ‘tomorrow’ that we dream about. He also convinces us that we will be able to cross that bridge and encourages us to do so. That is why their leadership is approved by people.

In this framework I think it is a historic duty for me to express a reality one cannot avoid underlining. During the Newroz celebrations held last year, I said in front of millions that Kurds have three leaders and we are grateful to all of these three leaders. My intention here is neither to make propaganda for an organisation nor to praise it. In fact, I do not think the personalities in question need any praise anyway. I believe that my speech should only be perceived as an observation of a historical situation.

In the indictment, the prosecutor excluded Mr Barzani and Talabani from his evaluation due to their political position. I would like to remind the prosecutor that only yesterday Mr Talabani and Mr Barzani were blamed with the same accusations that Mr Öcalan is subject to today.

Although each of these has a different sphere of influence, all three leaders have an important place in the feelings and thoughts of the Kurdish people. None is an alternative to the other. And because they have demonstrated the skill to turn differences into unity, our people mention them with gratitude. Gratitude, in its simplest sense is the “expression of indebtedness, of a heartfelt debt, of pleasure for a ‘good deed’ that has been done”. In this framework, ‘good deed’ is the ability to prevent peoples from cutting each other’s throat. It is a voluntary reflection of the will to live together. This meeting on the axis of peace and freedom can be described as the greatest “good deed” done throughout history for the sake of Kurds.

The initiators of this effort that has reawakened a nation—a nation that even history itself had forgotten– will certainly be mentioned with gratitude. Not to say that a great majority is impressed by the ideas of these leaders who, while seeking a future without frontiers, have embraced the culture of social peace and democracy and taken it to their people would be a travesty of truth. In this framework, it is inevitable and natural for Kurds to accept these three leaders as persons of value. What I wanted to voice in behalf of our people was giving unto those who deserved what they duly deserved.

“Leaders come on the stage of history with a call for social needs. The goal of the leader is victory. The struggle against evil, the inadequate, and the mediocre also aims for victory. Therefore, it is not a coincidence that great leaders emerge and show the way for solving problems in war or peace or during times of a drive for change, in other words during turning points in history.”

It should be known that if, despite decades of conflict, the Turkish and Kurdish people have not confronted each other, Mr Öcalan’s role in that is great. This role is also the guarantee for an honourable, just and lasting peace. Preparing society for the historical journey called change is possible when the right people become leaders at the right time. There are many people with great goals and who spend a great deal of effort to achieve them. But those who act in the name of their people and who accomplish their mission alongside their people are regarded as great leaders. It is because of these reasons that our people have repeatedly stated both in writing and verbally that he is accepted as the Kurdish People’s Leader. In the eyes of our people just as speaking Kurdish, saying Kurdistan and saying Mr Öcalan is not a crime, believing in this cause is not a crime either. Taking ownership of one’s leader is a human, conscientious, moral and political responsibility. In this context, the message distilled from the cries of millions of our citizens taking to the streets with the slogan, “PKK is the people, the people are here” should be understood correctly. Describing the Kurdish people’s demands for peace, freedom and equality as “terrorism” offends the Kurdish people.

One should not forget that at a place where there is war, one day there will definitely be peace. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’ reading the peace declaration with Mr Yasser Arafat whom he called a ‘terrorist’ for years, the courage of the South African President Mr De Klerk and Mr Mandela in ending the three hundred year white supremacy are still clear in our memories and remembered with respect. Peace, which will be a new life is not divisive, destructive and dislocative; on the contrary, it is unifying, bringing together and inclusive; because peace is the very act of building itself.

Respectable Judges,

As I conclude my presentation on this portion of the trial, 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. Since I started my struggle, irrespective of time and place, at squares or at trials I have always defended the same ideas. I was sometimes the witness and sometimes the defendant. I also stayed in prison for many years. The direction of my thoughts did not change either when I was a ‘prisoner’ or when I was ‘free’. You may not approve of my ideas; in fact we can defend conflicting and different ideas as well. But now 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, defendants or prisoners because of their thoughts.

Leyla Zana

Trial observer statement:

REPORT ON OBSERVATION OF TRIAL OF LEYLA ZANA

MARCH 31ST, DIYBAKIR

Margaret Owen. Member Bar Human Rights Committee.

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 10.am. 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. 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 others 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.

The “List of Trials” is available upon request.

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