Senior Kurdish politician in Turkey sentenced to 10 years in prison

Two-term lawmaker Aysel Tugluk has been in lengthy pre-trial detention since December 2016.
author_image Ari Khalidi

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A court in the Turkish capital of Ankara sentenced the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy co-chair Aysel Tugluk to ten years in prison on Friday for "leading a terrorist organization."

Tugluk, a human rights lawyer, and two-time lawmaker, has been held in a lengthy pre-trial detention since December 2016 when the police arrested her in a raid on her home in Ankara.

Judicial authorities have been investigating Tugluk in a probe related to the Diyarbakir-headquartered Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an umbrella organization for Kurdish civic associations which she headed for several years.

Kurdistan 24’s Ankara bureau reported that the court deemed the DTK a civic extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a group which has been fighting government forces in a decades-long insurgency over Kurdish demands for recognition of national rights, including self-rule.

In her defense, Tugluk denied the charges, demanding an acquittal on the grounds she was a politician her activities were of a strictly political nature.

"I have always carried the promise of peace in my heart, and worked tirelessly to that end," she said, adding she wanted autonomy for all the regions in Turkey.

Tugluk charged there was no independent judiciary in Turkey, and the sentence against her had been predetermined.

"The whole trial is a farce. None of our demands to investigate evidence in my favor were accepted," she said.

Prosecutors at Ankara's central criminal court, known in Turkey as a heavy penal court, were asking up to 22 years and six months in prison for the HDP Deputy.

Back in January, she was sentenced to one year and six months imprisonment over “violation of the law for organizing meetings and protests."

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his administration allege that Tugluk and her party act as a political front for the PKK.

She is, along with HDP's former co-leader Selahattin Demirtas and eight other lawmakers, one of the top figures of Kurdish political movement currently under detention.

The party, Turkey’s third largest, says the judiciary has been taking orders from President Erdogan.

In September 2017, while in jail, the politician's aged mother, Hatun Tugluk, passed away. Her funeral procession at an Ankara cemetery came under assault by a mob of about 50 people, screaming Turkish supremacist slogans and chanting, "Allahu Akbar." The crowd also shouted slurs against Alevis, the name for followers of a religious minority to which the family belongs.

Tugluk was granted special permission to attend, but the funeral was canceled after of the attack.

The family then took her mother’s body to the family's home province of Dersim, where Tugluk was not permitted attendance.

Editing by John J. Catherine