Pro-Kurdish HDP deputy sentenced to 7 years on terrorism charges

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Burcu Çelik Özkan

A Turkish appeals court has sentenced pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Burcu Çelik Özkan to prison for alleged terrorism propaganda, according to a report by the pro-Kurdish Mesopotamia news agency.

Özkan was sentenced to seven years, three months and 10 days on charges of disseminating propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). She had previously been given six years for the same offense by a lower court, but the sentence was dropped and the case retried on appeal.

“You will get the hell out of this place,” Özkan was accused in an indictment of having said to security personnel during the July 7, 2015 general election campaign. “We know well how to turn that Kalashnikov you are pointing at us back towards you.”

Prosecutors also said Özkan attended the funerals of PKK militants Berjin Demirkaya and Özgür Akınel and gave a eulogy at the funeral that constituted terrorist propaganda, charges she denied. “There is no concrete evidence that I attended the funeral,” Özkan said.

She also gave a different account of her actions in 2015 to that of the prosecution, saying that she had been opposing the presence of security forces at the ballot box intended to intimidate voters. “On July 7, 2015 I went to the towns of Sungu and Karaağaç with other candidate colleagues to see electoral and ballot box security in the field. There were security guards waiting at the ballot boxes with Kalashnikovs in Karaağaç,” Özkan said.

“We lodged our objections to them. We faced violence, insults and swearing from the village guards. They hit my hand with a gun.”

The court gave her five years for “threats making use of a terror organization’s power to frighten,” one year, three months for “terrorist organization propaganda” and one year, 10 days for “committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organization while not being a member of that organization.”

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday filed motions against eight HDP deputies for disseminating “terrorist propaganda,” demanding the removal of their immunity from prosecution, the state-run Anadolu agency reported.

According to the report, HDP deputies Osman Baydemir, Alican Önlü, Feleknas Uca, Sibel Yiğitalp, Nadir Yıldırım, Dilek Öcalan, Mizgin Irgat and Garo Paylan also were accused of “humiliating the Turkish nation, the Turkish state, government, military and police,” “violating the Political Parties Law” and “Insulting the president [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan].”

The prosecutor sent motions to the Justice Ministry to forward to the presidency of the Parliament for removal of the deputies’ immunity.

The prosecutor’s office also asked the Justice Ministry for permission to initiate an investigation into HDP deputies Baydemir and Botan for statements they made about a Turkish military operation and “humiliating the Turkish nation, military and police.”

The government’s crackdown on the Kurdish political movement began in late 2016 with the arrest of high-profile politicians, including the party’s then co-chairs, Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, which led to the detention of at least 5,000 members of the HDP, including 80 mayors. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast.

(Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF] with Turkish Minute)

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