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Cablegate: Judge in Zana Case Bars Audience Members From Next Session

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

161529Z Jan 04

C O N F I D E N T I A L ANKARA 000316

SIPDIS


DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE


E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/16/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM TU
SUBJECT: JUDGE IN ZANA CASE BARS AUDIENCE MEMBERS FROM NEXT SESSION


REF: 03 ANKARA 6570 AND PREVIOUS


Classified by Polcouns John Kunstadter; reasons 1.5 b and d.


1. (U) An angry judge ordered that members of the audience
attending the retrial of Leyla Zana and three other Kurdish
former MPs January 16 be banned from the next hearing for
applauding the defendants. The incident occurred after the
Ankara State Security Court (SSC) refused, for the tenth
consecutive time, a defense request for the release of the
defendants pending the outcome of the retrial.


2. (U) The defendants -- Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan
Dogan, and Selim Sadak -- are former MPs from the
pro-Kurdish independence Democracy Party. They were
convicted in a controversial 1994 trial of membership in an
illegal organization (the PKK). At each of the 10 hearings
of the retrial, which began in March 2003, the three-judge
SSC panel has refused a defense request for their release.
This time, however, the audience, mostly comprising relatives
and supporters of the defendants, broke out in applause in a
show of moral support when the court announced its decision.
The chief judge ordered security officials to take the names
of all those in attendance, with the exception of the
foreigners in the first three rows (who did not applaud), and
said they will be denied entrance at the next hearing, set
for February 20. All attendees are required to leave
identification with security officials upon entering the
courtroom.


3. (U) The court decision followed a dramatic plea by lead
defense attorney Yusuf Alatas for the defendants' release.
Alatas noted that, following their 1994 conviction, the
defendants won their appeal to the European Court of Human
Rights (ECHR). In March 2003, they were granted a retrial,
the first such retrial approved under a recent EU-related
reform allowing Turkish convicts who win an ECHR appeal to
receive a new trial in a Turkish court. Alatas chastised the
judges for referring to the defendants throughout the retrial
as "convicts," arguing that they should be considered
"arrestees" in light of the ECHR ruling that their original
trial was improper. The retrial is a landmark case that will
set an example for the judiciary, and the court should
therefore conduct itself in a more professional, impartial
manner. As in past hearings (reftels) Alatas accused the
judges of bias, claiming that their refusal to release the
defendants indicates that they have assumed their guilt from
the beginning.


-------
Comment
-------


4. (C) This retrial is probably nearing conclusion. However,
the process will continue, as the losing side is certain to
appeal. Based on our first-hand observations of the court's
conduct, we think the court has been biased against the
defense, and we anticipate a conviction. Our contacts
continue to predict that at the next trial an appeals court
will convict them again and sentence them to time served,
releasing them slightly before 2005, when their original
prison terms are set to expire in any case.
EDELMAN

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