Seven suspects who were among the 34 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who returned to Turkey from the Kandil Mountains and Makhmour refugee camp in northern Iraq and surrendered to Turkish security forces in 2009, have been sentenced to up to 10 years in jail on charges of being a member of and disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.
The ruling came during a hearing of the trial against seven suspects, three of who are currently under arrest, at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court. During the hearing, the prosecutor involved in the case reiterated his claims that the group had come to Turkey in October 2010 on orders from Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, and cannot benefit from Article 221 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), called the “active repentance” law.
The article stipulates the release of terrorist organization members who turn themselves in without any punishment as long as they have not been involved in any armed clashes with security forces or any other terrorist attacks against Turkey. The prosecutor demanded 20-year sentences for eight people who came from the Kandil Mountains for “being a member of a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda on behalf of a terror organization.”
After a short break, the court announced its decision and sentenced Mustafa Ayhan, Hüseyin İpek and Nurettin Turgut — the three suspects currently under arrest — to 10 years, 10 months in prison each, while it handed down seven year, one-month prison terms for Haci Surgun, Kamil Ökten, Melekşah Soydan and Fatma İzer each, who were earlier released pending trial. The suspects were all convicted of “being a member of a terrorist organization,” “committing a crime on behalf of a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda on behalf of a terror organization.”
Suspect Ayhan wanted to deliver his defense in Kurdish, but the court said he was speaking “in a language that is not understood by the court.” Then he switched to Turkish saying: “We left the camp and our guns and returned to Turkey of our own will. All of these efforts are for achieving peace.”
Defense lawyer Fethi Gümüş also said the suspects were in the Makhmour camp, which is under the protection of UN and have been accused of participating in a terrorist group. “So, a case should also be filed against the UN,” he argued.
The suspects were among the 34 people who had returned to Turkey from the Kandil Mountains and Makhmour refugee camp on Oct. 19, 2009 as a result of the positive atmosphere created by the Kurdish initiative launched by the Turkish government in 2009, which is a democratization plan aimed at expanding the rights of Turkey’s Kurds.
11 October 2011, Tuesday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL