Former HDP mayor sentenced to 17 years in prison on terrorism charges

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A local court has handed down a prison sentence of 17 years, six months to Remziye Yaşar, the former co-mayor of Yüksekova in southeastern Turkey from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on terrorism-related charges, local media reported on Friday.

The Hakkari 1st High Criminal Court on Friday gave Yaşar, one of the dozens of democratically elected HDP mayors who were removed from office and replaced with trustees after the March 2019 local elections, the sentence on charges of membership in an armed terrorist organization.

Yaşar, who was detained on October 15, 2019, and arrested by a court two days later, had been jailed pending trial since then.

The local court also handed down a prison sentence of eight years, nine months to each of 29 other defendants of the case, including two journalists.

Both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), frequently accuse the HDP, the second-largest opposition group in parliament, of ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. The party denies the claims.

Erdoğan’s systematic campaign to restrict the rights of the HDP over the past few years, which includes a closure case against the party and the detention of more than 5,000 HDP lawmakers, executives and party members on politically motivated charges, has prompted international condemnation.

A bipartisan group of 10 US senators on September 30 urged President Joe Biden in a letter to “forcefully condemn” Erdoğan’s escalating efforts to disband the HDP, underlining that putting the pro-Kurdish party on trial on politically motivated charges marked the culmination of Erdoğan’s efforts to “disenfranchise Turkey’s Kurdish population, undercut political pluralism in the country, and tighten his grip on power through anti-democratic means.”

Calling on Biden to uphold the national values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in relations with Turkey, the senators also stated that he should, in concert with their EU partners, ensure that Erdoğan understands that any attempt to disband the HDP or detain or bar its members from office will result in serious negative consequences for Turkey.

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