A Turkish court today sentenced Diyarbakir metropolitan mayor Osman Baydemir and Batman mayor Nejdet Atalay to 10 months in jail on charges of ‘spreading PKK propaganda.’ Neither Baydemir nor Atalay attended the trial at Diyarbakir 4th High Court.
Charges stem from a speech dated 25 February 2008, during a Turkish military incursion in neighbouring northern Iraq against PKK bases. Baydemir had condemned the operation and called for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict, saying ‘neither soldiers nor guerrillas should die.’ Referring to the PKK fighters as ‘guerillas’ is ‘spreading PKK propoganda’ and ‘inciting separatism.’
Ali Simsek, Diyarbakir provincial chairman of the DTP, was also tried in court for a speech that he made during a PKK fighter’s funeral. Simsek was sentenced to one year in prison for spreading propaganda for PKK.
Talking about the recent roundup of DTP politicians, Ahmet Türk said in London at the Kurdish Community Center, ‘Turkey is now at a point where it has retreated farther into its own shell in comparison to the past,’ refuting comments made by European politicians that the Turkey now has a stronger democracy.
In Ankara demonstrators rallied in support of the pro-Kurdish DTP following the arrests of several party affiliates throughout Turkey. Supporters of several pro-Kurdish factions in Turkey staged a peaceful demonstration in a show of solidarity with the DTP.
The public prosecutor’s office in Diyarbakir has also launched an investigation of DTP leader Ahmet Türk over some remarks he made in a speech in Diyarbakir last month. Türk compared the imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan, to former South African President Nelson Mandela. He said the racial conflict in South Africa ended with Mandela’s release from prison and that the Kurdish issue in Turkey could end too with Öcalan’s release. Prosecutors have requested a transcript of Türk’s speech from Diyarbakir police to determine if his comment amounted to PKK propaganda. Prosecutors may also ask parliament to lift Türk’s legislative immunity.