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Celebrating birthday of jailed PKK leader not a crime, ECtHR says

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has faulted Turkey in the case of a Kurdish woman who was convicted of disseminating terrorist propaganda for celebrating the birthday of jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan, the Jinnews news website reported.

The application to the court was filed by Fehime Ete, one of nine members of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) and the Families of the Convicts Association who at a meeting in the eastern province of Siirt on April 4, 2016 cut a cake on the occasion of the birthday of the jailed PKK leader and took part in a celebration.

The party prompted the Siirt Police to file a criminal complaint at the Siirt Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against the nine people on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda and praising a criminal.

Ete and the eight others were later indicted, and each was handed down a 10-month prison sentence on the charges. Ete, who had seven children to take care of, had to stay in hiding for months to avoid prison, and she and her entire family suffered extreme stress and hardship at the time, according to her lawyer Reyhan Yalçındağ.

After exhausting domestic legal remedies, Yalçındağ filed an application at the ECtHR, claiming that her client’s rights were violated due to the prison sentence.

The Strasbourg-based court announced its ruling on Wednesday and said Turkey violated the 10th Article of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concerns freedom of expression. The court ordered the Turkish government to pay 2,000 euros to Eke in damages in addition to 1,500 euros for legal costs.

The PKK has been leading a violent insurgency in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast for nearly four decades. Its leader Öcalan was captured by Turkish security forces in Nairobi in 1999.

He was subsequently sentenced to death; however, the sentence was commuted to aggravated life as Turkey abolished the death penalty as part of its bid to become a member of the European Union.

Öcalan has been jailed on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara since 1999.

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