Turkey Kurdish party co-leader given 5-month jail sentence

AFP , Tuesday 21 Feb 2017

Selahattin Demirtas (Photo: Reuters)

A Turkish court on Tuesday ordered the co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas to serve five months in jail, in the latest legal blow to the politician.

Demirtas has been held in jail since November on charges of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and making terror propaganda on their behalf.

If found guilty in that case, he risks up to 142 years in jail.

In a separate case, a court in the eastern city of Dogubayazit convicted Demirtas of denigrating the Turkish state and its institutions and sentenced him to five months in jail, state media said.

Demirtas is currently being held at a prison in Edirne, in northwest Turkey, far from the southeastern heartland of the Kurdish movement.

In a separate development, Turkish authorities on Tuesday stripped the other co-leader of the HDP, Figen Yuksekdag, who is also held in jail, of her parliamentary seat.

The move was based on a 2013 conviction for "terror propaganda" which was validated by the top court of appeals in 2016.

According to the Anadolu news agency, the validated conviction was read out by the deputy speaker in the plenary session, which is enough for an MP to lose their seat.

The move means that the number of HDP MPs in the Turkish parliament has now fallen to 58, Anadolu said.

Demirtas and Yuksekdag are among a dozen HDP MPs being held in prison ahead of trial on charges of links with the PKK after being detained last year.

The European Union has expressed anger over their detention, calling on Turkey to abide by its obligations under the rule of law.

The detentions came after Turkey defeated a failed July 15 coup aimed at bringing down President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government and blamed on US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.

But critics complain the crackdown goes well beyond the alleged coup plotters and accuse the authorities of using a state of emergency to muzzle all opposition.

HDP MP Ahmet Yildirim said that the decision over Yuksekdag "violated the Turkish constitution", asking why the move did not come immediately after the verdict was approved by the appeals court five months ago.

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