Cablegate: Court Releases Zana, Co-Defendants; Appeal

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

091603Z Jun 04

id: 17678
date: 6/9/2004 16:03
refid: 04ANKARA3206
origin: Embassy Ankara
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

091603Z Jun 04

----------------- header ends ----------------

C O N F I D E N T I A L ANKARA 003206



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/09/2014


Classified by Deputy Polcouns Charles O. Blaha; reasons 1.4 b
and d.

1. (U) Turkey's High Court of Appeals June 9 ordered the
release of Leyla Zana and three other Kurdish former MPs
pending the outcome of their appeal. The Court made its
decision one day after the defendants' attorney filed a
formal release request. The Court is scheduled to take up
the appeal July 8.

2. (U) The defendants -- Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan, and
Selim Sadak -- are all former MPs of the now-banned
pro-Kurdish-independence Democracy Party. They were
convicted of being members of the PKK and sentenced to 15
years each by an Ankara State Security Court (SSC) in a
controversial 1994 trial. The European Court of Human Rights
(ECHR) ruled in 2001 that the 1994 trial was unfair, and a
retrial was granted in March 2003 following GOT enactment of
an EU-related reform under which ECHR rulings are grounds for
a possible retrial in a Turkish Court. On April 21, 2004, an
Ankara SSC re-convicted the defendants, upholding the 1994
ruling. The defense appealed.

3. (C) At each session of the 13-month retrial, lead defense
attorney Yusuf Alatas requested that the court release the
defendants pending the outcome of the retrial. The court
refused each request, prompting Alatas to argue repeatedly
that the court was biased against his clients and failed to
acknowledge the ECHR ruling in their favor. Turkish human
rights activists and outside observers criticized the court's
conduct. A number of EU officials warned GOT leaders in
private that the defendants' continued imprisonment damaged
Turkey's image in Europe. Egemen Bagis, AK Party MP and
foreign policy advisor to PM Erdogan, confided to us recently
that the GOT recognized the political impact of the issue and
had tried unsuccessfully to persuade the court to release the
defendants during retrial.

4. (U) On June 7, the High Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor
submitted a written opinion to the Court calling for the
defendants' conviction to be overturned on the grounds of
irregularities in the retrial. The document was leaked to
the press. The prosecutor's opinion is not binding on the

5. (U) The defendants were convicted under the Anti-Terror
Law, which requires that convicts serve three-fourths of
their sentence. Based on the dates of their original
incarcerations, the sentences for Zana, Dicle and Dogan would
expire in March 2005, and Sadak's sentence would expire in
October 2005.


6. (C) It appears likely that the Appeals Court will overturn
the conviction and make this release permanent. Though the
prosecutor's opinion is non-binding, prosecutors and judges
in Turkey usually work together in lock step, particularly in
SSC cases. It is highly unusual for a prosecutor's written
opinion to be leaked to the press. The GOT is under intense
EU pressure on this issue, and the quickest way to relieve
that pressure is to release the defendants. Though the legal
process continues, European interest will wane once Zana et
al are no longer behind bars.


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