Former Member of Parliament Leyla Zana is due to stand trial in a Turkish court on 7 September 2023, facing accusations of “terrorist propaganda” in her speeches and charges of accepting international awards, deemed as “crimes” under Article 325/1 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The penal code article, titled “Acceptance of Titles and Similar Honours from the Enemy,” stipulates that a citizen who accepts academic degrees, honours, titles, medals, or other honorary ranks from a state at war with Turkey could face imprisonment from one to three years.
Zana’s lawyer, İbrahim Çeliker, has questioned the basis of the charges, asking, “Which awards received by Ms. Zana could be a source of crime? Which country has Turkey declared war on? These need to be clarified. The awards in question that Ms. Zana received are awards given from European countries and America on human rights,” Çeliker stated.
Zana is internationally recognised for her human rights work and political activism. Her accolades include the Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the Aachen Peace Prize, the Bruno Kreisky Prize, and the Freedom Medal by the American Human Rights Association. She has also been awarded the Silver Medal of the City of Paris and has been recognised as an “Honorary Citizen” by the cities of Paris and Geneva.
The indictment also implicates pro-Kurdish Democracy Party (DEP) former MP Orhan Doğan and Vedat Aydın, the People’s Labour Party (HEP) Diyarbakır (Amed) Provincial Chairman who was killed in 1991, citing their participation in memorial programmes as criminal. Çeliker responded to this, stating, “The prosecutor considers Orhan Doğan and Vedat Aydın as members of the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]/KCK [Kurdistan Communities Union]. He sees the mention of these names as a criminal element. However, Orhan Doğan is a Kurdish politician who spent years in prison with Leyla Zana and served as an MP. Vedat Aydın is a Kurdish intellectual who fell victim to an unsolved murder.”
Çeliker also emphasised that the indictment targets freedom of speech, stating, “The main point that the prosecutor focuses on is Ms. Zana’s speaking in Kurdish. There is a special clause in the indictment about her speaking in Kurdish. He emphasises this as a fault and evidence of the alleged crime; the crime of making terrorist propaganda. There are expressions picked out from speeches made in the fields of peace, brotherhood, and democracy … Ms. Zana has never praised violence, she has fought for peace to come, she is a politician who has paid the price.”