Turkey Sentences Pro-Kurdish Politicians

(RepublicanDaily.org) – A court in Turkey has convicted 24 politicians over charges related to their supposed involvement in pro-Kurdish riots in 2014 that left 37 people dead and scores more – including civilians – injured.

The sentenced pro-Kurdish politicians, who belong to the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, were handed down jail terms ranging from nine years to 42 years.

The riots broke out in October 2014, and lasted for three days, with protesters and rioters ostensibly angered by the Turkish government’s supposed inaction against atrocities committed by militants from the Islamic State, which frequently ran violent raids against the Kurdish town of Kobani, which borders Syria. The HDP, which called for the protests, accused Turkish officials of siding with IS militants.

In response to the riots, Turkey charged 108 people with a slew of crimes, which included crimes against the integrity of the state, and responsibility for the deaths of the 37 casualties. Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, former leaders of the HDP who are now currently incarcerated, were among those charged. Eighteen defendants were jailed, with another 18 allowed freedom pending a verdict, while 72 others are currently at large.

Demirtas, who has also run for president twice, received a jail sentence of 42 years after being convicted of 47 charges. Yuksekdag received a prison sentence of 30 years. Charges against the two include inciting criminal acts, challenging the unity of the Turkish state, and engaging in propaganda on behalf of a terrorist group.

Turkish officials have accused the HDF – which has been renamed to Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM) – of being a front for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union, and the U.S. The PKK has been in an active armed rebellion against the Turkish government since 1984.

Critics of the Turkish government however, along with organizations such as the Human Rights Watch, say that the convictions are politically motivated. Activists have accused the country’s strongman president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, of engaging in various human rights abuses, among them the persecution of the Kurdish people, the majority of whom live in the Turkish provinces of Diyarbakir, Tunceli, Siirt, and Batman. Authorities have also temporarily barred demonstrations in these provinces in anticipation of protests stemming from the sentencings.

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