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Turkish Activist Returns to Prison

March 28, 2000

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey’s leading human rights activist returned to prison Tuesday after authorities rejected his request for a deferral of his sentence to allow him to receive better treatment for an injured arm.

A medical board who examined Akin Birdal ruled that the former president of the independent Human Rights Association was not in life threatening danger and could serve the remaining six months of his prison term, said Nazmi Gur, secretary-general of the association.

The activist was released from prison in September after serving just over three months so that he could receive six months of physical therapy on his right arm. Birdal survived an assassination attempt in May 1998 that resulted in the partial loss of the use of his arm.

Birdal, 50, was convicted for speeches he gave in 1995 and 1996 supporting Kurdish rights and an end to Turkey’s war with Kurdish rebels. Courts deemed his remarks violated a law against the ``incitement of racial or religious hatred.″

He received one-year prison terms in the two cases but a parole law allows him to serve 10 months. He is to be released Sept. 23.

``He had packed his bags and was ready for prison,″ Gur said. ``But he didn’t really think that he would be sent back.″

There are about 20 more cases pending against Birdal for making similar speeches.

Eleven members of a far-right nationalist group were convicted and sentenced to up to 19 months in prison for attempting to kill him in December.

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