18 children on trial with terror charges with allegations of participating in a memorial march following their friend's murder by police in Cizre have been released from prison today.
Around 40 children were taken under custody during the event on February 16, 2008 and those who exceeded age 18 since are still under arrest, lawyer Tahir Elçi told bianet.
"Releases came too late," said Elçi, noting that several others will be in court on March 19th. "Despite this positive development, as long as Article 220/6 of the Penal Code –which enables courts to accuse children with terror charges, as adults- and the Supreme court of Appeals judgments stays in place, children would continue to be threatened with harsh penalties."
The case is postponed to June 9th.
In another trial seen this morning in Diyarbakır, five other children who were accused of similar charges for participating in a protest against PM Erdoğan's visit on October 20th are also released. Lawyer Canan Atabay told that there were six children on trial with this case.
Activists all around Turkey gathered together in December, demanding immediate release of all children in prisons and an end to trials of children with terror charges. Joined as the Initiative of Justice for Children, more than 40 NGOs recently sent letters to the president, the PM as well as other authorities to voice their concern.
Today's rulings seem in par with their demands but it's unclear if this represents a change of attitude in courts that would affect some 250 other children kept in jail. For example, a Diyarbakır court ruled for keeping four children in prison during a hearing on march 12th. On the same day, an Adana court condemned two children to a total of 4 years and 8 months in prison. During a recent visit to the parliament by rights activists, ruling Justice and Development Party officials as well as main opposition Republican People's Party officials promised to bring those demand to agenda. Responding a motion by DTP MP Selahattin Demirtas, Minister of Justice Mehmet Ali Sahin revealed that 724 children have been accused by terror charges in 2006 and 2007, as defined at the Counter Terrorism Law.
319 among those were tried in Diyarbakır courts, focus of Kurdish unrest in Southeastern Turkey.
Another 422 children were tried with the Article 220 of the Penal Code during the same period, which penalizes "organizing to commit crime." Yet another 413 children were accused of "membership to armed organizations", as defined in Article 314 of the Penal Code.
In 2006, the government had introduced a change in the Counter Terror Law, which enabled courts to try children aged between 15 and 18 as adults. In the same year, the Court of Cassation made a leading ruling, deeming participation in an protest as legal proof for "membership to the organization" calling for the protest. As a result, hundreds of children are tried with membership to the PKK, while activists condemn the situation as being against international standards.(EÜ/AGÜ)
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