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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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Turkish Supreme Court orders release of Leyla Zana

Leyla Zana and three other former Democracy Party (DEP) parliamentarians are to be released, following a decision of Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeal today. The decision follows a complaint from the Turkish prosecutor himself that the earlier State Security Court decision (DGM) of 21 April 2004 had failed to comply with ECHR standards.

The parliamentarians were appealing the DGM decision that confirmed their fifteen year prison sentences. The parliamentarians have been imprisoned since 1994.

The pro-Kurdish parliamentarians, Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Selim Sadak, had received a domestic retrial following an earlier European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decision that their ECHR rights had been violated. In February 2003, a 'Harmonisation' law was passed aimed at bringing Turkey in line with EU accession standards. The law granted a right to defendants to have a retrial where the ECtHR has ruled that their original trial violated their human rights.

KHRP has assisted the parliamentarians in taking their cases to the ECtHR, which ruled in July 2001 that the DEP parliamentarians had not received a fair trial; and in June 2002, that the dissolution of the DEP party itself had violated the right to fair and free elections. The Ankara State Security Court consented to retry the former parliamentarians in February 2003.

The DGM's decision of 21 April 2004 was widely criticised by observers for failing to ensure the parliamentarians' retrial met ECHR standards. The case has been seen as one example of the Turkish authorities' failure to implement their wide-sweeping reforms on the ground.

Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, comments, "We have been working since before 1994 to see the parliamentarians receive due process and their human rights, so evidently we are delighted by the court's decision. Nonetheless, while celebrating this, we must be cautious not to be distracted from the less high-profile cases and from the bigger issues."