A Kurdish man who is deaf, illiterate and unable to speak is facing 25 years in prison for allegedly supporting terrorism in Turkey.
Mehmet Tahir Ilhan, a market porter from the city of Mersin, denies charges that he “made propaganda” for the illegal Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and used sign language at his hearing in the city of Adana to indicate that he had been swept up in a pro-Kurdish protests in April 2011 that turned violent, the BBC reported.
"I was on my way home after finishing work at the market when I saw the protesting group. A friend of mine gestured at me to join them but I refused. The police intervened right after that," he said in his testimony, according to Hurriyet Daily News, adding:
"I did not throw rocks, Molotov cocktails or fireworks at the police."
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It is an offence under Turkish anti-terrorism legislation to show any public support for the PKK, and the fact that Illan was in possession of half a lemon – which can mitigate the effects of tear gas – was adduced as evidence against him, the BBC reported.
Prosecutors in Adana have demanded that Illan be sentenced to 25 years if found guilty. Tugay Bek, İlhan's lawyer, said: “İlhan has been completely mute and deaf since birth. He also does not know how to read or write. It is impossible for İlhan to have chanted any slogans. The accusations against this defendant, who does not have the physical abilities needed to spread [pro-PKK] propaganda, defy logic and reason,” according to Today’s Zaman.