ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Turkish court in the city of Gaziantep on Tuesday sentenced one of the province’s lawmakers Mahmut Togrul to two years and six months in prison over accusations of “terrorist propaganda.”
Togrul is a member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Turkey’s second largest opposition bloc under a crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration with charges of ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed armed group fighting the Turkish state.
His speeches two years ago in Gaziantep and his native Pazarcik district of Kahramanmaras constituted PKK propaganda, the Turkish judiciary ruled.
The sentencing is the first against a lawmaker in the current legislative assembly which was sworn in after the June 2018 presidential and general elections.
In the previous assembly, a dozen HDP lawmakers were arrested, with 10 of them including the party’s former Co-chair Selahattin Demirtas landing in jail.
Togrul’s defense team argued during a trial to which he did not appear that his speeches should be covered under the umbrella of free speech as he was politically addressing his constituency.
The MP was at the Ankara Parliament along with HDP’s Co-chair Sezai Temelli to receive a group of voters from Gaziantep.
They made no comments regarding the ruling during or after the meeting with supporters.
It is unclear if the Turkish police will act to arrest him upon a court’s imprisonment decision.
Jail time for yet another HDP MP is a sign that Erdogan’s clampdown on the Kurdish opposition will continue as there are ongoing judicial investigations against over a score of his colleagues.
Turkey is preparing to go to the ballot box for local elections in March 2019, a vote crucial for the Kurds to reclaim at least 94 city and town municipalities the Ankara government seized by dismissing and jailing elected mayors, despite the President’s threats to do the same again if HDP candidates win.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany