Human Rights Watch has an excellent new report out that looks at the troubling use of anti-terror laws to imprison Kurdish protestors and stifle dissent in southeast Turkey.
According to Turkish law, protestors (even non-violent ones) can be accused of being members of a terrorist organization (read, the PKK) if they go to a demonstration that was deemed to have been organized by that organization. That had led to numerous cases of people who have been given fairly severe sentences for basically showing up at a protest. Some of examples covered in HRW's report include the case of an illiterate mother of six who was sentenced to seven years in jail for joining a protest where she held up a banner that said "The approach to peace lies through Ocalan" and that of a university student who was given six years in jail after being filmed flashing a victory sign at the Diyarbakir funeral procession of a slain PKK fighter and then later seen clapping his hands at a protest at his university.
From a release about the report:
....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 offense was making a victory sign, clapping, shouting a PKK slogan, throwing a stone, or burning a tire........"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."
The report can be found here.
(photo: a group of Kurdish women at a 2007 rally in Diyarbakir. By Yigal Schleifer)