Rights activist doctor acquitted of terrorism charges

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Prominent medical doctor and rights activist Şeyhmus Gökalp, who faced a jail sentence of up to 15 years on terrorism charges, has been acquitted, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

The last hearing in the trial of Gökalp, an honorary board member of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), was held at the Diyarbakır 10th High Criminal Court on Friday. The court ruled to acquit Gökalp of charges of membership in a terrorist organization, which carry a prison sentence of between seven and 15 years.

Gökalp was first arrested in November 2020 and sent to a prison in Diyarbakır. He was released pending trial in February 2021 after spending 80 days in jail. The doctor’s arrest led to widespread condemnation from local and international rights groups which described his arrest as politically motivated and aimed at silencing him about human rights violations in the country.

Gökalp was among 72 people who were detained in November 2020 as part of an operation against the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an umbrella organization that brings together pro-Kurdish political parties, and NGOs. However, Turkish authorities argue that the DTK has links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.

The doctor was prosecuted on the claims of an informant who alleged that Gökalp was treating injured PKK militants or providing them with medical supplies at a Diyarbakır hospital. The informant later retracted her statement, saying that she only heard those claims from others and did not witness the acts herself.

Gökalp is the brother-in-law of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been behind bars since November 2016 on bogus terrorism charges.

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