ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Turkish high court on Monday raised a previous six-year prison sentence for a lawmaker of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Burcu Celik Ozkan, to seven years, three months, and 10 days over charges of “aiding a terrorist group.”
In its ruling, the criminal court in the Kurdish city of Erzurum said Celik’s attendance at the funeral of a fallen Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) member was aid and collaboration with the group which has been waging decades-long guerrilla warfare over state repression of Kurdish rights.
Celik, also accused of propaganda for the PKK and “inciting public hatred,” represents the neighboring province of Mus at the Turkish Parliament.
Authorities have been holding Celik in pre-trial detention in prison in Ankara since her arrest a year ago as part of an ongoing government crackdown on the opposition party.
In February, her lawyers appealed to the Erzurum court to overturn the six-year sentence given several months earlier, Kurdistan 24’s Turkish language service reported.
When the court proceeded last month with the appeal though, a public prosecutor demanded an even heavier punishment: 27-and-a-half more years plus the original sentence.
A 2015 speech in which Celik told Turkish government-paid Kurdish militias that “you would get the hell out of this country” constituted the basis of an indictment against her.
The Turkish army trains the irregulars known as village guards and usually recruits them from Kurds as an additional local force familiar with the terrain during operations against the PKK since 1985.
The guards whose number exceeds 50,000 are pejoratively labeled as “jash” or “donkey’s foal” by autonomy or independence-minded Kurds who accuse them of being quislings to the Turkish State.
A lawyer by profession, Celik has a 3-year-old daughter whom she demanded to care for in prison.
In May, Turkey’s Justice Ministry allowed her to reunite with her daughter, but their separation continued after another court hearing.
The lawmaker’s father, Kadri Celik, was a high-ranking Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighter killed in a mine explosion in 2012, a year before the now-collapsed peace talks between Kurdish rebels and Ankara.
HDP’s former co-leader Selahattin Demirtas and seven other lawmakers, along with thousands of other party officials remain in jail.
Having been convicted of a crime, Celik faces a prospect of losing her seat at the national assembly.
The Turkish Parliament has ousted nine of the party’s MPs, bringing down the total number of pro-Kurdish lawmakers from 59 to 50 at the 550-seat assembly.
One of those expelled, Ahmet Yildirim, was also banned from politics by the judiciary for "insulting" President Recep Tayyip Erdogan two months ago.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany