Pro-Kurdish official sentenced to prison

May 24, 2012 at 12:02 PM

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, May 24 (UPI) -- Independent pro-Kurdish Deputy Leyla Zana was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Turkish court Thursday for ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party.

The 5th High Criminal Court in Diyarbakir based its decision on Zana's testimony and speeches outside the courtroom, which indicate she does not believe the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, is a terrorist organization, Today's Zaman reported.

Court records show Zana recognizes jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan as the leader of the Kurds and views the group's actions as a fight for "freedom and democracy."

She was sentenced for distributing propaganda on behalf of the group.

Zana first made waves in 1991, taking part of her oath of office in Parliament in Kurdish, which is not recognized as an officially recognized language by the Turkish government. The State Security Court convicted her in 1994 of having ties to the PKK; however, an appeals court overturned the conviction in 2004.

The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. It has fought against the Turkish government since 1984 for an autonomous Kurdistan.

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