Court Extends Kurdish Activists’ Jail Sentence

ANKARA (Reuter)–A Turkish court Wednesday added one year each to already lengthy prison sentences being served by a sociologist and a Kurdish politician for what it called "separatist propaganda."

The Ankara security court handed down one year in prison and a fine of 100 million Turkish lira (about $570) to Ismail Besikci–a sociologist already serving more than 40 years in jail for his writings on the Kurdish problem–his lawyer told Reuters.

It gave the same sentence to Hatip Dicle–a former deputy of a now-banned pro-Kurdish party who is five years into a 15-year sentence in an Ankara prison.

Both men were charged with "separatist propaganda" for their contributions to a book entitled "A Panorama of Human Rights in Turkey," published by the Human Rights Association (IHD).

Besikci–who is not a Kurd–is thought to hold the record for prison terms under Turkey’s strict restrictions on freedom of expression.

The 60-year-old former university professor has a current prison term of more than 40 years–but with more cases pending and large fines unpaid–this could rise to over 100 years–his lawyer said.

Turkey’s relations with its Western NATO allies are soured by the country’s poor human rights record and strict curbs on freedom of speech.

In September in Istanbul alone 44 print runs of magazines and books were confiscated–according to the IHD’s monthly figures released on Wednesday. Jail terms totaling three years and eight months were given out in freedom of expression cases.

There were also cases of torture confirmed by doctors’ reports in Istanbul in September–the IHD said. Methods of torture included electric shocks–death threats–beatings and sexual assaults–it said.

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