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Cablegate: Turkey: Kurdish Activist Leyla Zana to Appeal 10-Year

VZCZCXRO9417
RR RUEHDA
DE RUEHDA #0051 3401213
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051213Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL ADANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4692
INFO RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 1235
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 1043
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 1297

UNCLAS ADANA 000051

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PTER PGOV TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: KURDISH ACTIVIST LEYLA ZANA TO APPEAL 10-YEAR
SENTENCE

1. (U) SUMMARY. A Diyarbakir court sentenced Kurdish activist
Leyla Zana to ten years in prison for being a member of the
terrorist PKK and disseminating propaganda for the organization.
The court also banned her from participating in politics and
voting. Zana's lawyer has announced plans to appeal, at least a
year-long process. A local lawyer points out Zana has not been
arrested, and will likely not face "preventive detention" during
the appeals process. The pro-Kurdish DTP may select Zana as a
mayoral candidate in the southeast. This verdict could enhance
her appeal among Kurdish voters who empathize with her
victimization. The southeast has been quiet in the immediate
aftermath of the ruling, with no evidence of planned protests.
END SUMMARY.

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All Quiet on the Eastern Front

------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On December 4, Diyarbakir's 5th High Criminal Court
sentenced former politician Leyla Zana to 10 years in prison on
charges of violating the Turkish Penal Code and the Anti-Terror
Law. Zana was found guilty of being a member of a terrorist
organization - the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) -- and
disseminating terrorist propaganda in nine separate speeches
delivered over the past year. Among Zana's quotes cited in the
indictment are "I don't consider PKK to be a terrorist
organization;" "Ocalan is the leader of the Kurdish people;"
and, "the PKK's fight is a struggle freedom and democracy." The
court referenced public addresses she delivered in multiple
cities in the southeast and before the European Parliament (in
Kurdish) to protest military cross-border operations and rally
political support. Zana's lawyer, who was not present during
the sentencing, has vowed to appeal, a process that could take a
year or longer. Principal Officer reported from Diyarbakir that
local business, NGO and political leaders have not raised the
Zana topic during his meetings, and currently all is quiet. A
local lawyer points out that Zana has not been arrested, and
will likely not face "preventive detention" during the appeals
process.

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Guilty Verdict May Ignite Turkey-EU Tension

--------------------------------------------- --------------

3. (U) Zana, Turkey's first female Kurdish parliamentarian, is
not unfamiliar with the Turkish penal system, having served a
previous ten-year sentence from 1994-2004 under similar charges
of being a PKK member. The case was highly controversial in
European countries. The European Union challenged the
conviction and later awarded her the Sakharov Prize for Freedom
of Thought. In 2001, the European Court of Human Rights ruled
against Turkey after a review of her trial, a verdict rejected
by Turkey. This fresh conviction may stir up more friction
between Turkey and the EU, despite a recent report by the
Assembly of Western European Union countries recognizing
Turkey's right to defend and protect itself in the face of the
PKK threat.

------------------

COMMENT

-----------------

4. (SBU) A well-known Diyarbakir attorney, Sezgin Tanrikoglu,
told us the ban on voting and political participation will be
suspended until the appeals process is concluded. This is
politically significant, as pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party
(DTP) -- the successor to previous Kurdish parties banned by the
Turkish judiciary -- may reassess its election strategy and
consider Zana's candidacy for key mayoral races in the
southeast. This verdict could make her a more attractive
candidate for Kurdish voters who empathize with her
victimization. On the other end of the spectrum, Zana has long
been a lightning rod for Turkish nationalists who believe she
has flouted the law and openly supported Kurdish separatism,
with deadly consequences. They will view the verdict as long
overdue. END COMMENT.

GREEN

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