Kurdish leader jailed by Turkey court for 42 years over 2014 deadly riots

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Public TV English
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ANKARA: A Turkish court has sentenced over 20 Kurdish politicians, including former Presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas, on ‘bogus charges’ of crimes against the state and for their role in the 2014 deadly riots that erupted as the Islamic State group overran the Syrian town of Kobane, reported Human Rights Watch.

The core accusation centres on four social media postings on October 6, 2014, from the Twitter account of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) alongside the politicians’ political speeches. The indictment takes these tweets as grounds to hold the accused politicians directly responsible for the ensuing protests in 32 cities across Turkey from October 6 to 8, 2014, which resulted in at least 37 deaths, the circumstances of which have never been fully elucidated.

The trial of the politicians has been dubbed the ‘Kobane trial’ in the media because of the reference to the Kobane protests, Human Rights Watch reported. The protests were rallied by leaders of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, who were frustrated by what they considered to be Turkish authorities’ support for IS militants.

The Turkey court in the Ankara 22nd Assize Court hearing, sentenced Selahattin Demirtas to 42 years in prison, co-chair of the HDP, Figen Yuksekdag to 30 years, and Gultan Kisanak, the former mayor of Diyarbakir, to 12 years, reported Human Rights Watch. Additionally, Ahmet Turk, the serving mayor of Mardin, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The court ordered the continued detention of 13 defendants, including Demirtas and Yuksekdag.

Meanwhile, the court has acquitted 12 other politicians who had been on trial with them, reported Human Rights Watch. The ruling confirms that the Turkish authorities instrumentalized the criminal justice system to secure the politicians’ prolonged arbitrary detention on ‘baseless charges’ and remove them from political life as elected representatives.

Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch said, “The conviction of Selahattin Demirtas, Figen Yuksekdag, and other leading Kurdish opposition politicians in a mass trial is the latest move in a campaign of persecution that has robbed mainly Kurdish voters of their chosen representatives, undermined the democratic process, and criminalized lawful political speech”.

“Using bogus criminal proceedings to remove democratically elected Kurdish politicians from political life will do nothing to end the Turkish state’s decades-long conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)”, he said.

Moreover, the former HDP members of parliament, elected mayors and party officials have stood trial for the past three years on multiple charges, ranging from attempting to “destroy the unity and integrity of the state” and “membership of a terrorist organization” to “murder.”

The evidence against them, as confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights, consists almost exclusively of their party’s social media posts and political speeches.

The indictment charged the politicians with up to 30 offences, including the main crime of attempting to “destroy the unity and integrity of the state,” as well as “murder,” “damage to property,” and “theft” in relation to the deaths and violence during the protests for which it held them liable.

Meanwhile, the ongoing criminal case files against the politicians in different courts charging them with crimes such as “membership of a terrorist organization” and “spreading terrorist propaganda” were then merged with the “Kobane trial” case file, as reported by Human Rights Watch.

The crackdown on the politicians followed the breakdown in 2015 of intensive efforts by the party and the government to bring an end to the decades-long conflict between the armed PKK and the Turkish state.

In May 2016, the government led a controversial move to lift the parliamentarians’ parliamentary immunity through a temporary constitutional amendment. Later in November 2016, leading HDP members of parliament, and on separate dates elected mayors from a sister party, were arrested and jailed on terrorism charges, Human Rights Watch reported.

Demirtas and Yuksekdag, the HDP’s former co-chairs, have remained in prison ever since. The party itself is fighting a case seeking its closure before Turkiye’s Constitutional Court. (ANI)

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