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Turkish court sentences Kurdish lawmaker to prison for terrorist propaganda

[JURIST] A Turkish court on Thursday sentenced a Kurdish member of the Grand National Assembly [official website, in Turkish], the Turkish parliament, to 18 months in prison on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda. Aysel Tugluk was convicted in connection with a speech she gave in 2006 during which she explained her party's objection to labeling the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] a terrorist organization, saying that the separatist fighters were "heroes to some." Tugluk gave the speech at a rally for the minority Democratic Society Party (DTP) [official website, in Turkish], which supports Kurdish independence and has been accused of connections to the PKK. Tugluk said that she plans to appeal the decision, though she said she may face other charges for at least 30 different comments [Reuters report] she has made about the Kurdish conflict. Although Turkish lawmakers are protected from prosecution while in office, a recent high court decision held that those provisions do not apply to terrorism charges.

In 2007, Tugluk and DTP President Ahmet Turk were convicted [JURIST report] of distributing political materials in a language other than Turkish after they circulated a pamphlet in support of imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan [advocacy website]. In December, Kurdish activist Leyla Zana [NNDB profile] was sentenced to 10 years [JURIST report] in prison for supporting the PKK in public speeches. Turkey's limitations on free speech, particularly under Article 301 [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive], have drawn international criticism and contributed to the nation's delayed accession [JURIST report] to the European Union [official website]. That article's original language making the denigration of "Turkishness" a crime was amended [JURIST report] last year, limiting protection to the "Turkish Nation" instead.

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