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Mayor Demirbas Acquitted in ''Propaganda'' Case

Court acquits Mayor Demirbas on charges of propaganda in European Social
Forum statement titled "Municipalities and Local Administrations in the
Light of the Multilingualism". Case was launched on grounds that the PKK
also demands Kurdish language rights.

Diyarbakir Sur district Mayor Abdullah Demirbas has been acquitted on
charges of terrorist propaganda by means of the press in a trial at the
province's 4th High Criminal Court where he defended a statement he
addressed to the European Social Forum covering Kurdish language rights.
Demirbas was prosecuted under Article 220/8 of the Turkish Penal Code and
faced up to three years imprisonment for opinions he expressed in the
"Municipalities and Local Administrations in the Light of the
Multilingualism" statement that was also published on the website of the
Municipality.

The prosecution maintained at Tuesday's hearing that the views Demirbas
expressed in the said article corresponded with the views of the Kurdistan
Workers Party (PKK) on language rights and in content was in the nature of
abandoning the nation-state, single state, single nation and single language
concepts. He said the mayor's views supported the PKK's campaigns based on
these.

No praise to PKK

Demirbas and his attorney Tahir Elci were present at the last hearing where
they opposed prosecutor Muammer Ozcan's opinion on the case. Elci said his
client had not been involved in any form of organizational propaganda and
that as a Mayor, the speech he made contained nothing that implied he
praised or agreed with the organization's activities.

"He has tried to help those people who cannot use Turkish which is the
official language and who speak in different languages and dialects" Elci
told the court. "The freedom of expression may be voiced so long as it does
not contain violence and racism. The speech should be evaluated in the
contest of the freedom of speech, expression. To limit freedom of expression
on the Kurdish problem will only put that problem in more of a bottleneck".

Demirbas himself addressed the court where he rejected the allegations
against him and maintained he had no intention of conducting organizational
propaganda. In his previous defense, the Mayor had said "I do not believe
that to say Turkey has a multi-identity is multicultural, multilingual is
separatism" arguing that denying its multicultural and multilingual identity
would be what could divide the country.

In the article subject to prosecution, the Mayor had called for citizens of
the country to actively participate in developments that affected them under
their own identity and language, suggesting mayoralties take measures and
prepare for multilingual representation of themselves for their local
populations.

After attorney Elci's appeal for an acquittal and the final defense was
heard Tuesday, the court ruled that no offense had taken place in Demirbas's
speech and decided on his acquittal.

220/8 cases escalate in Southeast

Interviewed by bianet on the case, attorney Elci pointed out at a recent
increase in court cases launched under article 220/8 of the Penal Code
against activists and local administration executives in the Southeast
region.

The lawyer said this article, allowing charges to be brought up on grounds
of "conducting propaganda of the organization and its goals" was being
abused, adding, "unfortunately I think this is politics".

Noting that some of these cases were concluded with acquittals, Elci
recalled that Mayor Abdullah Demirbas had been acquitted of separate charges
of causing financial loss to the municipality by building a statue in memory
of Ugur Kaymaz who was killed in the Kiziltepe district of Mardin.

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