Turkey: Kurd with lemon accused of supporting terror

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A Turkish prosecutor has demanded that a Kurdish man who is deaf, illiterate and unable to speak be jailed for 25 years for supporting terrorism.

Possession of a half-lemon was cited as evidence against Mehmet Tahir Ilhan. Lemon can ease the effects of tear gas.

Mr Ilhan is charged with making propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and with taking part in an illegal organisation.

Mr Ilhan, a bazaar porter from the city of Mersin, denies the charges.

Using sign language at a hearing in the south-eastern city of Adana, he said he had got caught up in a violent pro-Kurdish demonstration.

Under Turkey's anti-terrorism law it is an offence to show any sign of support for the PKK.

Laws criticised

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul says Turkey's judiciary often administers harsh penalties on bafflingly slight evidence.

However, even by Turkish standards, this case is extraordinary, he says.

If Mr Ilhan is found guilty, the court is expected to pass a sentence close to the 25 years that the prosecutor has asked for.

Over the past 18 months, hundreds of Kurdish activists, journalists and politicians have been detained under anti-terrorism legislation.

The use of Turkey's anti-terrorism laws has been widely criticised. The Council of Europe said it was having a "chilling effect" on freedom of speech.

Our correspondent says the Turkish government is trying to encourage Kurdish moderates with such concessions as Kurdish language classes in school, while at the same time isolating the more hard-line PKK members.

But the sometimes incomprehensible actions of its judiciary will inevitably undermine such efforts, he adds.