Campaigning in Kurdish not crime, Turkey’s top court rules

Campaigning in Kurdish not crime, Turkey’s top court rules

Campaigning in Kurdish not crime, Turkey’s top court rules

DHA Photo

The Turkish Constitutional Court has decided that the five-year sentence handed down to three local politicians who campaigned in Kurdish back in 2009 was unjust, ruling a retrial of the suspects.

Fikriye Aytin, the former mayor of Lice in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, and Ali Şimşek and Sevi Demir, two officials from the Democratic Society Party [DTP], were given five-year sentences for speaking Kurdish during a party meeting to promote its candidates for the local elections at the time. 

The court’s May 12 verdict referred to the principle of no punishment without law. 

The decision has paved the way for the retrial of the suspects and a probable acquittal. 

Another Constitutional Court decision ruled the right to be tried in a reasonable amount of time for two other Kurdish politicians was violated in a 2010 case in the southeastern province of Gaziantep. The suspects were tried in a Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), a supra organization that included the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), case and were sentenced to prison. 

The suspects in custody were likely to be released soon due to the court order.  

The Constitutional Court has also ruled the state should pay compensation to a soldier who was shot in a “friendly fire” incident by village guards, an armed organization that lends support to the military in its fight against PKK militants in eastern and southeastern Turkey. 

The private was shot while on duty as he was changing his position and the guards thought he was a PKK militant. The court ruled that a rejected compensation case launched by the wounded soldier should be re-opened. 

The court also ruled in a military spying case, saying the applicants’ rights to a fair trial were violated. The suspects said their demand for digital material was rejected, as a local court had cited that the documents included state secrets.

In a move aimed at decreasing the huge number of applications lodged against Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), individual access to the Constitutional Court effectively began in September 2012. 

Zühtü Arslan, the top court’s head, made it clear on April 25 that the Constitutional Court can cope with the massive number of individual applications and indicated there was no need for a systemic review of the current mechanism, as the government had suggested. 

His remarks came at a time when there were speculations the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government intended to take away the right to individual application to the Constitutional Court.

“In the face of possible harm to the performance of the Constitutional Court by the extreme workload that individual applications have brought to the court, we will review this practice,” the ruling AKP said in its manifesto.