UK delegation to observe Diyarbakir trial of 151 Kurdish political activists and human rights defenders

PEACE IN KURDISTAN PRESS RELEASE, 17 October 2010
Peace in Kurdistan is pleased to announce that an observer delegation consisting of Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Margaret Owen, human rights lawyer, Hugo Charlton,  barrister, and lawyers Ali Has and Serife Semsedini  has gone to Turkey to monitor the trial of 151 Kurdish political activists and human rights defenders set to begin in Diyarbakir on 18 October.

“We hope the delegation will build pressure to secure the release and acquittal of these political prisoners,” said PIK spokesperson Estella Schmid.  “At the same time, our monitors will use the opportunity to meet with Kurdish human rights defenders and politicians to learn about recent developments in the region.”

Turkey has imprisoned at least 850 Kurdish political activists, including elected mayors, since April 14, 2009.  Most of those targeted have been connected to the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), a legal formation that controls nearly 100 municipalities and has a parliamentary group.  The Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an umbrella organization that brings together civil society organizations and the BDP, has also been heavily persecuted, as has the Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD).

Those set to go on trial on October 18 include IHD vice-chairperson Muharrem Erbey, former DTK chairman and member of parliament Hatip Dicle, Diyarbakir mayor Osman Baydemir, and many other prominent Kurdish leaders.

The trial observation delegation intends to write articles and reports upon conclusion of the court proceedings and the meetings with representatives of the DTP, lawyers and NGOs and to hold public meetings in London to publicize the findings.

Peace in Kurdistan has consistently campaigned against Turkey’s arrest operations and European complicity in them.  “The PKK has declared several ceasefires and said it’s prepared to disarm under UN supervision if there’s a political solution.  Turkey has decided to carry out mass attacks on Kurdish civilian activists, not to mention the PKK, instead of taking advantage of these opportunities,” Schmid said.  “The Turkish government is responsible for the ongoing conflict.”

The October 18 trial represents an important crossroads for Turkey.  Prospects for the beginning of a meaningful conflict resolution process will be bolstered if the suspects are released.  If they’re sentenced to further jail time, however, the stage will be set for further conflict.

PIK calls on Turkey to immediately release all imprisoned Kurdish politicians and human rights defenders and to take serious steps to help start a peace process.  The EU and US should also contribute to this by ending their criminalization of the Kurdish political movement.

For further information, please contact:

Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Email: estella24@tiscali.co.uk
Estella Schmid – Tel: 020 7586 5892  & Melanie Sirinathsingh Tel: 020 7272 4131

Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP,  Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Edward Albee, Mark Thomas, Bairbre de Brún MEP