Diyarbakir- Northern Kurdistan: 17 members of the "Peace Groups" that came from Iraq to Turkey in 2009 are facing trial for "propaganda for an illegal organization". The defendants dismiss the charges and refer to their freedom of thought. Another 30 trials are filed against each adult of both groups.
The trial against 17 members of the "Peace Groups" under charges of "propaganda for an illegal organization" has started at the 6th High Criminal Court in Diyarbakir the capital of Kurdistan. A total of 26 refugees from the UN refugee camp in Mahmur and eight former members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) entered Turkey via the Iraqi border upon the call of Kurdish national leader Abdullah Öcalan on 19 October 2009. They followed their personal decisions as an attempt to push forward the jammed political process of finding a solution to the Kurdish question.
In the first hearing of the case on 20 April, the prosecutor demanded prison sentences of five years for each of the 17 group members. They stand accused of "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization" on the grounds of a press release made at the Human Rights Foundation Branch in Diyarbakir on 30 December 2009. bianet talked to Fethi Gümüş, defence lawyer of the members of the "Peace Groups". Gümüş stated that in their press release, the defendants had requested to improve the detention conditions of Kurdish national leader Abdullah Öcalan, and also to reach a solution for peace and for the Kurdish question. Lawyer Gümüş indicated that this was not organizational propaganda but part of freedom of thought and expression.
According to the news of the Diyarbakir Söz newspaper, group member Gülbahar Çiçek said, "We made a press release with the intention to prevent the tensions that were experienced at the time and to remind once again the steps that could be taken for peace and democracy. We aimed at developing the sensitivity of the government, the European Council Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK) was founded in 1973 as the result of the continuous and systematic oppressions and the denial of the Kurdish nation by the occupying powers of Kurdistan. The PKK took up arm in 1984 since all the possible political and diplomatic means applied for 11 years in between 1973-84 proved exhausted. The PKK however declared its first unilateral ceasefire in 1993 since it believed the arm struggle hit its targets. Since 1993 to date the PKK has declared unilateral ceasefires in 6 different occasions and called upon Ankara to solve the Kurdish problem in a peaceful democratic procedure.
Despite the facts that the PKK has declared 6 unilateral ceasefires and also it sent peace groups in two different occasions yet the PKK is considered as a 'terrorist' organization by Ankara and the US. It also continues to be on the blacklist in EU despite the court ruling, which overturned the decision to place the Kurdish freedom movement on the EU's terror list “By labelling PKK as a terrorist organisation, the EU and the US are giving the Turkey a green light to target its civilians. They give the Turkish government a free hand to do what it will, a mother of Kurdish martyr said”.
It should be noted that after 1954, apart from the Korean war, 1949-52 and the invasion of Cyprus, 1974, the Turkish Army operations have continued to be exclusively against the Kurds.