Having already written a letter to the Turkish Prime Minister and blogged on it HERE, I have just put my name to an open letter to David Miliband calling on the British government to use its influence on Turkey. Leyla Zana, the first Kurdish woman elected to the Turkish parliament, has been convicted for up to ten years in prison for speeches she allegedly made in the UK and elsewhere.
Her affront to the Turkish state has been to speak up for peace between Kurds and Turks – a far cry from the supposed promotion of pro-terrorist language she is accused of. She has previously served ten years in jail for fighting for Kurdish rights. Famously, upon entering parliament she called for brotherhood between the Kurdish and Turkish peoples. The offence there? To make this call in her native Kurdish language.
Her earlier trial was found to be unfair and unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights, and her struggle has long been recognised in Europe: in the 1990s Amnesty recognised her as a prisoner of conscience, and the European Parliament awarded her the Sakharov Prize for human rights.
The letter calls on the UK government to hammer the message home that Turkey must honour its commitments under the Copenhagen Criteria if it is to join the European Union. Freedom of speech and association are universal human rights, and must be respected as such.