ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – In the first week of the new year, Turkish courts continued to hand down lengthy prison sentences for Kurdish lawmakers caught in a government crackdown over accusations of “separatism and terrorism.”
On Thursday, a Turkish court in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir sentenced Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Idris Baluken to 16 years and eight months of imprisonment in a trial where he was accused of “disrupting the state unity, territorial integrity of the country” and “membership in a terror organization.”
Prosecutors were asking for up to 47 years for Baluken who represents Diyarbakir at the Turkish Parliament as a member of the country’s second-largest opposition bloc.
“This sentence reflects anger against democracy and the fight for freedom. Justice is being used as a baton,” HDP Co-leader Serpil Kemalbay said following the court ruling.
Police first arrested him along with HDP’s Co-chair Selahattin Demirtas and a dozen other MPs in November 2016, when they staged midnight raids on their homes across several provinces.
He was released in January last year, only to be detained the following month again.
Shortly after the announcement of Baluken’s sentencing, another court in the Turkish province of Kocaeli gave the Co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), Sebahat Tuncel, two years and three months in jail.
DBP is a sister party of the HDP, mostly active throughout some 25 Kurdish-majority provinces where until before the crackdown in late 2016, it held over 100 municipalities that were seized by the Interior Ministry.
Tuncel, under detention since October 2016, was facing charges of violating “the law on walks and protests” over her attendance in a celebration of the Kurdish New Year (Newroz) in March 2010.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany