July 17, 2001

STRASBOURG, July 17 (AFP) – 17h46 – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that jailed Kurdish former deputy Leyla Zana and three other ex-members of parliament had received an unfair trial in Turkey.

The four were sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Ankara State Court in 1994 for separatist activities and links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) of Abdullah Ocalan.

The PKK took up arms against Ankara in 1984 for Kurdish self-rule in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.

The court ruled Tuesday there had been a violation of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights because the Ankara court, which included a military judge, was not “an independent and impartial tribunal.”

“The court further held, unanimously, that the applicants’ rights … had been violated, in that they were not informed in time of modifications to the charges against them and that they had not been able to have key witnesses questioned,” a statement from the court said.

In their petition, the four had complained that they were convicted of “putting forward, as parliamentarians, the views of the Kurdish population in Turkey and of having developed peaceful solutions to the Kurdish problem.”

The court, in a unanimous decision, ordered that each plaintiff receive 25,000 dollars (29,400 euros) in damages and 10,000 dollars in expenses.

The court decided not to rule on other complaints from the four related to freedom of expression, freedom of association and the ban on discrimination.

Diplomatic sources said the ruling could lead the 43-member Council of Europe to demand a review of the cases of Zana, Selim Sadak, Hatip Dicle and Ohran Dogan, that could result in their release from jail.

All four were members of parliament and belonged to the now-defunct Democracy Party (DEP).

Zana, who is currently in Ulucanlar prison in Ankara where she has been visited several times by European parliamentarians, received the European Parliament’s Sakharov freedom of thought award while in prison in 1995.

The DEP’s 15 members of parliament, among them Zana, entered parliament on a social democratic ticket in 1991 and caused an uproar by taking their oaths in Kurdish instead of Turkish, the official language.

Three years later, the party was banned with some of its administrators being sentenced to jail for collaborating with the PKK and some fleeing to Europe in anticipation of lengthy jail terms.