Letter: Turkey puts democracy on trial

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The Independent Online
Sir: On 3 August, the trial begins in Ankara State Security Court of six parliamentarians of the Democracy Party in Turkey. They are charged with offences under Article 125 of the Penal Code, which provides that:

Any person . . .who carries out any action intended to destroy the unity of the Turkish state or to separate any part of the territory from the control of the Turkish state shall be punished by death.

This, and the Anti-Terror Law, which prohibits non-violent writing, speech, meetings and demonstrations aimed at damaging the 'indivisible unity' of Turkey, make it illegal to discuss separate forms of administration for the Kurdish region, all the way from limited decentralisation to total independence.

Thus Turkey's criminal law violates its international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both

of which guarantee freedom of

expression.

The prosecution of these MPs and the destruction of the Democracy Party itself have evoked widespread protests by parliamentarians from many countries, including Britain. Many of the party's activists, including one MP, Mehmet Sincar, have been murdered; thousands more have been arrested and tortured; and finally, the party has been banned altogether, making the other six MPs liable to prosecution if they had not left Turkey and sought asylum in Europe.

Turkey still needs Europe, however, as a trading partner and a sympathetic ally in dealing with its other enormous political and financial problems. It is time for the EU to make it clear to Ankara that our relationship can only continue to be friendly if Turkey reverses its policy of confrontation with the 13 million Kurds, and allows them to be represented by whatever parties they choose. The laws which make even talk of devolution a capital offence must be repealed, and the trials of the MPs must be halted.

Yours faithfully,

LORD AVEBURY

Chairman, Parliamentary

Human Rights Group

TONY BENN, MP; RICHARD BURDEN, MP; ALEX CARLILE, MP; ANN CLWYD, MP; ANTHONY COOMBS, MP; JEREMY CORBYN, MP; CYNOG DAFIS, MP; GEORGE FOULKES, MP; NEIL GERRARD, MP; JOYCE GOULD (Baroness Gould); JOHN HEPPELL, MP; LYNNE JONES, MP; ELWYN LLOYD, MP; BOB PARRY, MP; NIC REA (LORD REA); PADDY TIPPING, MP

House of Lords,

London, SW1

1 August

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