TURKEY: Court acquits child choir members of Kurdish separatism charges

[ANKARA, 20 June 2008] - A court on Thursday acquitted three teenage members of a Kurdish choir accused of making Kurdish rebel propaganda by singing a rebel song under a rebel flag at a music festival in the United States.

Lawyer Baran Pamuk told The Associated Press his clients, aged between 15 and 18, were cleared of the charges after the court in Diyarbakir, southeast Turkey, ruled that the three had "no intention" of spreading propaganda on behalf of the autonomy-seeking rebel group the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Six younger members of the choir, being tried separately by a juvenile court, were also likely to be acquitted during a hearing set for July 3, Pamuk said.

Prosecutors have, however, launched an investigation into their choirmaster, Pamuk said.

The nine were members of a 15-person choir from the municipality of Diyarbakir, the largest city in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.

They were charged after returning from a tour of the United States in October for singing a song called "Ey Raqip" or "Hey Enemy" at a music festival in San Francisco. The song is regarded as a rebel song.

They could have faced five years in prison if they had been convicted.

In his clients' defence, Pamuk told court the children did not even understand the words the song, which was composed in the 1940s.

The rebel group has been fighting for self-rule in mainly Kurdish areas of southeastern Turkey since 1984. The violence has killed tens of thousands of people.

The United States and the European Union considers the PKK a terrorist organisation.

Further information

pdf: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/06/19/europe/EU-GEN-Turkey-Kurdish-C...


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