May 15, 2008

Pro-Kurdish retired Imam jailed in Turkey

by David Masters

A retired Imam in Turkey has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for engaging in propaganda activity.

Islamic preacher Muhittin Eryilmaz was sentenced by a court in Diyarbakir, a town in the south east of Turkey, for his part in a pro-Kurdish protest.

Eryilmaz joined members of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party as they protested against the Turkish Army’s attack on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) bases in northern Iraq.

Holding a Qur’an in his hand, he is alleged to have called for an end to the Turkish occupation of Kurdistan, and to have made pro-PKK statements.

Eryilmaz denied the charges and requested acquittal. His lawyer said that Eryilmaz attended the protest because he was trying to avoid bloodshed.

However, Eryilmaz was sentenced under the Counterterrorism Act for using and preaching propaganda for an illegal organisation.

Antiterrorism laws are often used by Turkey in the majority Kurdish south east to silence politicians and other political activists.

In the past, Turkey’s activities have been condemned by the EU, who have said that activists should be allowed freedom of expression.

Eryilmaz’s lawyer said that he will be appealing against the charges.

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