DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Kurdistan24) – Turkish authorities on Wednesday began the trial of the former Co-mayor of the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir Gultan Kisanak.
Held at a prison some 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) away from her city in the northwestern province of Kocaeli, Kisanak attended the trial at a heavy penal court in Diyarbakir via teleconference, said a Kurdistan24 reporter following the case.
Kisanak told the court she was staying alone in a cell which Kocaeli prison authorities had prepared even before a Diyarbakir court decided to put her in pre-trial detention in a distant city.
“I faced massive torture in the Diyarbakir prison. But I never escaped from Diyarbakir. I never will,” Kisanak said.
She was referring to her ordeal as an activist in the infamous prison where Turkish putschists put and tortured hundreds of leading Kurdish activists and politicians after the 1980 coup d’etat.
Police arrested Kisanak in late October 2016 at the Diyarbakir airport as she flew back from Ankara.
Her arrest and that of the other Co-Mayor of Diyarbakir Firat Anli were the first in an ongoing series of mass detentions targeting the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Democratic Regions Party (DBP), their leaders, a dozen lawmakers, and over 60 mayors.
In November, a prosecutor in Diyarbakir demanded a sentence of up to 230 years for Kisanak, accusing her of being a member-in-charge of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Additionally, she was accused of separatism over her earlier speeches where she wanted autonomy for the Kurds.
Kisanak rejected the charges during the trial, saying her former remarks, as well as the case itself, were political.
She also said her lawyers could not regularly visit because of the distance and obstruction by the prison administration.
The Turkish government removed Kisanak in November 2016 from her position and appointed a bureaucrat to run Diyarbakir’s municipal affairs as a trustee.
Kisanak also objected to the seizure of her municipality and its local council, arguing the move was unconstitutional and violating the votes of her electorate of 400,000 people.
The court rejected Kisanak’s demand to be released and put off the trial to a later date.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, police detained 19 local Kurdish politicians, among them Co-mayors of the towns of Qilaban (Uludere) and Begiri (Muradiye) in the provinces of Sirnak and Van respectively.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Hesen Kako contributed to this report from Diyarbakir)