Human Rights Watch calls on Turkish authorities to amend the laws that have resulted in the arbitrary and punitive application of terrorism charges against demonstrators

PanARMENIAN.Net
November 1, 2010 - 21:01 AMT 17:01 GMT

Human Rights Watch unequivocally condemns the October 31, 2010 suicide
bomb attack in Istanbul. It is essential that Turkey's response targets
the perpetrators, not legitimate dissenters, Human Rights Watch said. A
Human Rights Watch report released documents the use of anti-terror
laws to prosecute hundreds of Kurdish demonstrators as though they were
armed militants, violating free expression, association, and assembly.

The 75-page report, "Protesting as a Terrorist Offense: The Arbitrary
Use of Terrorism Laws to Prosecute and Incarcerate Demonstrators in
Turkey," is based on a review of 50 cases. It describes 26 cases of
individuals prosecuted for terrorism even though they had nothing
to do with violence such as the October 31 attack, but simply for
taking part in protests deemed by the government to be sympathetic
to the outlawed armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Hundreds of
Kurdish demonstrators are currently in prison pending the outcome of
their trials or appeals against convictions. Others are serving long
sentences that have been upheld by Turkey's top court of appeal.

"When it comes to the Kurdish question, the courts in Turkey are all
too quick to label political opposition as terrorism," said Emma
Sinclair-Webb, Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch and author
of the report. "When you close off the space for free speech and
association, it has the counterproductive effect of making armed
opposition more attractive."

Over the past three years, courts have relied on broadly drafted
terrorism laws introduced as provisions of the 2005 Turkish Penal
Code, plus case law, to prosecute demonstrators. The courts have ruled
that merely being present at a demonstration that the PKK encouraged
people to attend amounts to acting under PKK orders. Demonstrators
have been punished severely for acts of terrorism even if their
offence was making a victory sign, clapping, shouting a PKK slogan,
throwing a stone, or burning a tire.

The report calls on the Turkish authorities to amend the laws that
have resulted in the arbitrary and punitive application of terrorism
charges against demonstrators, to suspend ongoing prosecutions
against demonstrators under these laws, and to review the cases of
those already convicted, Human Rights Watch official website reported.




From: A. Papazian