Duvar English

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that demanding the release of jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan and initiating a campaign for this cannot be considered as a crime as they are within the boundaries of “freedom of thought and expression.”

The case concerns two people who were sentenced each to 10 months in jail on terrorism charges for distributing campaign forms with Öcalan’s picture on them, Mezopotamya news agency reported on Jan. 31.

On Feb. 6, 2015, authorities in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır seized a number of campaign forms prepared by Berrin Baran Eker and Muzzaffer Özbek. The forms titled “Signature form for Abdullah Öcalan’s freedom” read: “I support the demand for the release of Abdullah Öcalan and political prisoners in Turkey. The freedom of Öcalan will be the most important step for democratization of Turkey and the peace process in Kurdistan.”

Eker and Özbek were members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democratic Party (BDP), the predecessor of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). An investigation was then launched against them on charges of “making terror propaganda.”

The Diyarbakır 4th Heavy Penal Court on May 5, 2015 sentenced Eker and Özbek each to 10 months in jail. The applicants’ appeal at the Diyarbakır 4th Heavy Penal Court was rejected, which paved the way for taking the case to the Constitutional Court.

The top court, echoing previous decisions given by itself as well as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), said in a unanimous verdict that the local court’s ruling had violated the applicants’ right to freedom of thought and expression.

The court said that the local court’s ruling was against what was necessary in democratic social orders. It turned down Eker and Özbek’s demands for compensation, sending their files back to the Diyarbakır 4th Heavy Penal Court for a retrial to take place.