Guilty verdict for jailed former parliamentarians is a setback for the rule of law

The ICJ condemns the decision of the Ankara State Security Court to find Leyla Zana and her co-defendants, all Kurdish former parliamentarians guilty of “membership in an armed gang.”

“This was a retrial and it was meant to remedy the defects of the first trial ten years ago” said Linda Besharaty-Movaed, Legal Advisor for the ICJ. “But we are deeply dismayed that this guilty verdict is again based on a flawed process. There was no presumption of innocence, the defence was not treated equally with the prosecution and the independence of the court is questionable at best.”

After having monitored 12 of the 14 hearings during 2003-2004, the ICJ considers that the charges were politically motivated and the defendants did not receive a fair trial by an independent and impartial tribunal. The ICJ also considers the former parliamentarians’ ten-year detention a violation of their right to liberty and security.

The defendants, who have consistently denied the charges against them, were originally tried and sentenced in 1994 to 15 years of imprisonment. The re-trial was based on a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that the defendants had not received a fair trial at the Ankara State Security Court, which at the time included a military judge. Although some of the changes demanded by the European Court of Human Rights were instituted, such as removing the military judge, the fundamental unfairness of the trial has persisted.

Mr. Stuart Kerr, Barrister of England and Wales monitored the hearings in the re-trial on behalf of the ICJ.
The ICJ has also been closely monitoring trials of human rights lawyers in Turkey who are prosecuted for discharging their professional functions. Recently, the President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association and three other lawyers were charged with “professional misconduct” for having represented villagers who sought compensation from State authorities for the destruction of their homes in South-East Turkey by Security Forces. The defendants were later acquitted.

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