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Turkish opposition leader sentenced for promoting PKK

The co-chairman of Turkey's Peace and Democracy Party, Kurdish rights advocate Selahattin Demirtash [official profile, in Turkish] was given a 10-month suspended prison sentence on Tuesday for allegedly promoting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) [BBC backgrounder; FAS backgrounder]. A Turkish court ruled that Demirtash promoted the PKK [Zaman report, in Turkish] during his tenure as a branch head of the non-profit organization Human Rights Association [official website] by publishing a press release drawing attention to the case of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan [BBC profile]. The prosecution also noted that Demirtash made similar statements [Hurriyet report] regarding Oclan on Roj TV, a satellite TV channel broadcasting in Kurdish. Demirtash can appeal this decision. The PKK has been labeled a terrorist organization by Turkey's government and the US State Department [official website].

The Peace and Democracy Party was created on the basis of the Democratic Society Party, which was banned [JURIST report] by Turkey's Constitutional Court [official website, in Turkish] in December 2009 because the party was cooperating with the PKK. Earlier this year, Turkish politician and Kurdish rights activist Leyla Zana [NNDB profile] was sentenced 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 PKK.

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