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Cablegate: Leyla Zana Trial - Like Deja Vu All Over Again

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

271011Z Feb 04

C O N F I D E N T I A L ANKARA 001155



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2005


(U) Classified by Polcouns John Kunstadter; E.O. 12958
reasons 1.5 b and d.

1. (U) An Ankara State Security Court February 20 ruled, for
the 11th consecutive time, against a defense request to
release Leyla Zana and three other Kurdish former MPs for the
duration of their retrial. The decision came after lead
defense attorney Yusuf Alatas argued, as he has in past
hearings, that the court should be compelled to release the
defendants because their original conviction was ruled
improper by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Alatas further argued that the speeches that led to the
charges against his clients could no longer be considered
criminal under recent EU-related legislative reforms.

2. (U) The defendants -- Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan
Dogan, and Selim Sadak -- are former members of the
pro-Kurdish independence Democracy Party. They were
convicted in a controversial 1994 trial of membership in an
illegal organization (the PKK). Their retrial, which began
March 2003, is the first retrial under recent reform
legislation allowing convicts who win their appeal to the
ECHR to receive a new trial in a Turkish court. At each of
the 11 hearings of the case, the court has refused a defense
request to release the defendants.

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3. (U) After the February 20 hearing, Joost Lajendik,
co-president of the Turkey-European Parliament Joint
Parliamentary Commission, told reporters on the courthouse
steps that he was disappointed with the court's decision
against release. Calling on Turkish judges and prosecutors
to act in accordance with the spirit of GOT legislative
reform, Lajendik said the Turkish judiciary must choose
whether to adhere to the old Turkey ("the Kemalist
straightjacket" in the words of one contact who watched the
press briefing with us) or join the new Turkey. Lajendik
added that the GOT bears the equally important responsibility
to create the conditions under which the judiciary will
choose the new Turkey.


4. (C) This trial has taken on a "Groundhog Day" quality, as
the defense repeats its critique of the court's conduct and
the court continues to deny release. Very little of what
takes place in the courtroom bears any direct relation to the
charges against the defendants, so it is therefore difficult
to estimate how much longer the trial will last. However, at
the conclusion of this past session the defense pointedly
stated that it has nothing left to say, so a verdict may be
near. We believe the court will convict, but however the
judges rule the losing side will appeal. A final decision is
unlikely to be reached before the sentences of the defendants
run out in 2005.


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