ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish courts on Friday handed a combined sentence of 28 years to two pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies over “terrorism”-related charges.
A High Criminal Court in Van handed HDP deputy Lezgin Botan an 18-year prison sentence, accusing him of “damaging the integrity of the state,” “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization,” and “membership in a terrorist organization.”
Botan was convicted despite pleading not guilty to a host of charges against him. His lawyer said an appeal would be lodged “immediately.”
The charges were initially filed against the HDP deputy on March 8 following social media posts opposing the Turkish military offensive in Syrian Kurdistan’s Afrin region.
State media said some of the charges against Botan were related to a phone call to a television station during which he spoke against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Kurdish deputy will be the second MP in Turkey’s history kicked out of the national assembly for insulting the head of the state.
The first such case was recorded last month when Botan’s fellow HDP lawmaker Ahmet Yildirim lost his seat after a court sentenced him to 14 months in prison for calling Erdogan “a shoddy emperor.”
Yildirim was also banned from politics and deprived of certain civic and custodial rights, another first in the modern history of the country.
Meanwhile, another pro-Kurdish deputy, Aysel Tugluk, was sentenced by an Ankara court to 10 years in prison for allegedly “being the leader of a terror organization.”
The charges are related to her membership in the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) who the Turkish government argues is an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Tugluk denied the allegations of her membership to a “terrorist organization,” in an address before the court. “The DTK never called for violence. It serves as a legal platform that seeks a democratic solution to the Kurdish question,” she said.
“I am neither a member of an organization nor the leader of an organization. All the work I have ever done is legal and legitimate according to our constitution and laws. I am only a member of the HDP and the DTK, nothing else,” Tugluk added.
A massive crackdown on the Kurdish movement leading to the detention of at least 5,000 members of the HDP, including 80 mayors, began in late 2016 with the arrest of high profile politicians, including the party’s then Co-chairs, Figen Yuksekdag, and Selahattin Demirtas.