Turkey sentences pro-Kurdish leader to five months in prison

Turkish authorities are already holding Demirtas since November 2016 in a supermax prison in the northwestern city of Edirne.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - A Turkish court on Tuesday sentenced the co-leader of the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas to five months of imprisonment on the charges of "insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey and its institutions."

Turkish authorities are already holding Demirtas since November 2016 in a supermax prison in the northwestern city of Edirne near the Bulgarian border, some 1,750 kilometers (1,080 miles) away from the town of Dogubeyazit, in the Kurdish province of Agri where his trial went on.

The co-leader of Turkey's second largest opposition block who attended the court via teleconference reportedly denied the accusations and demanded his release.

Prosecutors have previously asked for a jail sentence of up to 142 years for Demirtas in a separate case, accusing him of having links to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a charge he has vehemently denied.

Earlier in the day, the Turkish Parliament stripped HDP's other imprisoned co-leader Figen Yuksekdag of her seat over a high court's upholding of a ten-months prison sentence in a terror-related trial.

It was not immediately clear if the Parliament would also remove Demirtas's lawmaker status, now that a court convicted him, said Kurdistan24's Bureau at the Turkish capital of Ankara.

The decisions against Demirtas and Yuksekdag came a day after a delegation of lawmakers from the HDP appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to ensure the release of their leaders.

In May 2016, the Parliament passed a bill that stripped its members from immunity, a move that has so far disproportionately targeted the HDP, leading to repeated arrests, detentions of Kurdish MPs.

Police detained Demirtas, Yuksekdag as well as a dozen other lawmakers during night raids on their homes on November 4, 2016.

The crackdown on Kurdish politics continues as Turkey goes to a referendum in April deciding whether or not to give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan executive powers.

In Ankara, police arrested HDP's head of parliamentary group Idris Baluken, less than three weeks after his release from a months-long pre-trial detention.

A court remanded him to prison again, reported Kurdistan24 Bureau.

Currently 13 pro-Kurdish lawmakers and more than seven thousand politicians of the HDP and the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), including 81 mayors are held in captivity across Turkey. 

 

Editing by Ava Homa