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Turkish court sentences Kurdish rights activist to 3 years in prison

[JURIST] Turkish politician and Kurdish rights activist Leyla Zana [NNDB profile] was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison for spreading terrorist propaganda. Zana was convicted [Zaman report, in Turkish] by a court in the city of Diyarbakir for two speeches delivered at the Kurdish political congress and protest in 2008. Zana has previously been convicted for spreading propaganda under Turkey's anti-terrorism laws, most recently facing a 10-year sentence [JURIST report] in 2008 for supporting the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) [BBC profile; FAS backgrounder], a militant Kurdish nationalist group. She remains free [Reuters report] pending appeal. Turkey has been accused of using its anti-terrorism laws to suppress Kurdish nationalists. The Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) [advocacy website] criticized Turkey's anti-terrorism laws [KHRP briefing paper] saying that though they were passed due to heightened security concerns, they have hindered freedom of expression, association, and have been used to suppress certain groups like the Kurds.

Zana was the first women elected to Turkey's parliament in 1991, and shortly thereafter there were calls for her arrest when she read the Parliamentary Oath in Kurdish. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison, along with other members of her Democracy Party, when the party was banned in 1994. She served 10 years in prison until her conviction was overturned and she was freed from prison [JURIST reports] in 2004. In calling for a peaceful settlement to issues of Kurdish rights, she had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 and 1998, and was awarded the Sakharov Prize [official website] in 1995.

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