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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Green MEP condemns imprisonment of Kurdish campaigner

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, has condemned the decision of the Turkish authorities to sentence Leyla Zana, a prominent campaigner for Kurdish rights, to three years imprisonment as a “striking blow for human rights”.

Ms Zana, who was the winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 1995 for her work to improve human rights and extend democracy and freedom of expression in Turkey, was sentenced at the Diyarbakir Court yesterday for supporting the Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK).

Commenting on the announcement of Ms Zana’s sentence, Jean Lambert MEP said:

“I am concerned and disappointed with this disproportionate sentence and see it as a striking blow for human rights and for the Kurdish people. Leyla Zana is an inspirational figure and has tirelessly fought against intolerance and oppression.

“Just because you stand up for oppressed people doesn’t mean you are a supporter of violent action, and the fact that the Turkish authorities cannot distinguish between this is shocking. I have met with Leyla on a number of occasions and she is not a supporter of violent action, she supports a progressive peaceful way forward.”

Jean continued:

“To put the winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize behind bars again, one of the strongest voices campaigning for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question, is a travesty. But despite this latest set back I have every faith that Leyla will continue in her commendable efforts and my unwavering support goes with her.”


Notes to editors:

Leyla Zana is a former member of the Turkish Parliament. She was arrested in 1994 along with several other Kurdish politicians for speaking in Kurdish at the swearing ceremony for MPs. They were imprisoned for 10 years and released in 2004, when she finally collected the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which she was awarded in 1995 while still in prison.

In 2008, Ms Zana was sentenced to another 10 years imprisonment for allegedly “spreading terrorist propaganda” for speeches she made in which she supported the Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK) and their imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The case was sent to the Supreme Court of Appeals and ended on Thursday with a reduced sentence of three years.