|After Seven Years, Leyla Zana and Fellow Imprisoned Kurdish MPs Receive Justice from European Court|
Selim SADAK and OTHERS v TURKEY (Unfair Trial)
The European Court of Human Rights today handed down an long-awaited judgment in the case of Kurdish MP Leyla Zana and three fellow Kurdish members of the Turkish Parliament who were sentenced by the Turkish Government in 1994 to a 15 year prison sentence for alleged membership in an armed organisation. In its unanimous decision, the Court found that the State Security Court in Ankara which tried the MPs was not and "independent and impartial tribunal" and that, in turn, the MPs had been denied a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Leyla Zana, a key figure in the Kurdish struggle who was awarded the Council of Europe's Sakharov Award in 1995, has, along with her fellow Kurdish Democracy Party (DEP) MPs Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Selim Sadak, already served seven years in Turkey's prisons despite calls from European Parliament and Amnesty International to release the Parliamentarians as prisoners of conscience.
In their application to the European Court, the four MPs complained that they were denied a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal, due to the fact that a military judge sat among the State Security Court judges who convicted them. They also complained that they were convicted for defending the views of the Kurdish population in Turkey and of having developed peaceful solutions to the Kurdish question.
The Court further also unanimously held that the applicants' rights under Article 6 § 3 (a) and (b) had been violated, in that they had not been informed in time of modifications to the charges against them and that they had not been able to have key witnesses questioned.
Commenting on the case, Kurdish Human Rights Project's Executive Director Kerim Yildiz noted, "Leyla Zana and her fellow MPs were democratically elected eight years ago. The European Court's judgment today offers a glimmer of hope that Turkey will see the necessity of releasing these four courageous human rights defenders and that the Government will also work towards a peaceful, political solution to the Kurdish question which is so desperately needed in Turkey."
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) the Court awarded $25,000 American dollars (USD) to each of the applicants for damages and an additional $10,000 (USD) for costs and expenses.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. The Kurdish Human Rights Project works for the promotion and protection of human rights within the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and the former Soviet Union.2. The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. On 1 November 1998 a full-time Court was established, replacing the original two-tier system of a part-time Commission and Court.