Tekce, mayor of Hakkari near the Iraqi border, had told a parliamentary commission that "the PKK is not a terrorist organisation" and later reaffirmed this view.

   

He did not attend his trial, in Van southeast of Turkey, and officials said he was currently in France. It was not immediately clear whether he would return to Turkey to appeal against the verdict or serve out his sentence.

   

The verdict comes amid a rash of charges brought against officials of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) for allegedly praising the PKK or Abdullah Ocalan, its jailed leader.

   

It also coincides with preparations for the biggest Kurdish festival of the year, Newroz (Nevruz in Turkish), which marks the advent of spring.

   

Newroz has often been a flashpoint for clashes between security forces and Kurdish separatists. Turkish officials have appealed for calm in the run-up to this year's festival, which is celebrated on Wednesday.