Tuesday, July 06, 2004

An outrage...and an act of kindness

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - An elderly, impoverished Turkish woman jailed for nearly a month after planting potatoes on state land has been freed after a sympathetic mayor paid her fine, a television station said on Sunday.

Refiye Maya, 76, was sentenced to 45 days in prison because she could not afford the 1.8 billion lira ($1,250) fine after her conviction for violating forestry laws, CNN Turk said.

Authorities discovered she had planted up to a half-acre (0.45 hectare) of potatoes on state property next to her farm in the northwestern province of Sakarya.

CNN Turk showed Maya, dressed in a traditional headscarf and baggy shalwar trousers, leaning on her cane as she slowly walked out of prison, assisted by police officers.

Maya served 27 days of her jail sentence before Mayor Ibrahim Karaosmanoglu of the nearby city of Izmit met her on a visit to a women's prison and learned her story.

"For years I planted potatoes and cabbages in that area, I didn't know it was a crime," Maya said after she left the prison's gates.

"Because we don't have any income, we couldn't pay the fine, and I had to go to prison. I will never, ever plant potatoes or anything else there again," she said.

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