|20 August 2009
Rt. Hon David Miliband MP
Secretary of State
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
The University and College Union (UCU) is writing to you with our serious concerns about the 10-year prison sentence handed down to Kurdish politician Leyla Zana by the Turkish authorities in December 2008. We understand that Leyla has been indicted under the Anti-Terror Law and under certain articles of the Turkish Penal Code, as evidenced by her speeches made abroad between 2007 and 2008.
On 24 May 2008 the Kurdish Society at the School of Oriental & African Studies invited Leyla Zana and Professor Mary Davis (who is a UCU NEC member) to talk about “the obstacles and options for a political and peaceful solution of Turkey’s Kurdish question”. In July 2009 Leyla was sentenced to 15 months in jail by a court in Diyarbakir as a result of her SOAS speech. As an education union the UCU is particularly concerned that the latest assault on Leyla’s freedom of expression stems from a speech made at a UK higher education institution. The recent decision has been rightly condemned by the SOAS management who have said that “the notion that people should be prosecuted for things said in an academic seminar at SOAS is deeply worrying.”
The UCU urges you to write to the Turkish Government with your concerns about Leyla Zana’s imprisonment, including how a speech at SOAS has now been used as part of her ongoing harassment.
We also would like to know what the British Government is doing to ensure that freedom of expression is being properly respected by the Turkish authorities.
UCU General Secretary