Case of Zana v. Turkey

69/1996/688/880 (1997)

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Case of Zana v. Turkey

European Court of Human Rights
69/1996/688/880 (1997)

Facts

Since 1985, the southeastern region of Turkey has seen clashes between members of the Worker’s Party of Kurdistan (PKK) and the national security forces. According to government statistics, these clashes with the PKK killed thousands of civilians and members of the security forces. In 1987, the government placed 10 of the 11 provinces in southeastern Turkey under emergency rule. Mehdi Zana (defendant) was a former mayor of a city located in southeastern Turkey who was imprisoned in a military prison. While imprisoned in August 1987, Zana told journalists that he supported the PKK. Zana told these journalists that while the PKK had killed women and children, these killings were a mistake. These statements were published in a national daily newspaper, causing the local military prosecutor to bring new charges against Zana. In 1991, the local military court found that the PKK qualified as an armed organization intending to foment secession within Kurdistan through acts of murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery. The local military court held that Zana had violated Article 312 of the Turkish Criminal Code. The local military court therefore convicted Zana to 12 months of imprisonment for endangering public security by defending acts punishable by law. Zana appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that his imprisonment violated his freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the convention). Zana argued that he had supported Kurdish liberation movements but that he had always spoken out against violence by the PKK. The Turkish government (plaintiff) argued that the statements made by Zana violated Articles 168 and 312 of the Turkish Criminal Code and that the government’s prosecution was in service of the legitimate aim of maintaining national security and public safety.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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