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Woman sentenced on terrorism charges for membership in Kurdish solidarity association

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A Diyarbakır court has handed down a prison sentence of six years, three months to Meryem Soylu, 79, for membership in an association for people who have lost relatives in the continuing clashes between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces, the Mezopotamya news agency reported on Thursday.

Soylu is one of the Peace Mothers, a group of Kurdish mothers whose children are either militants from the outlawed PKK or political dissidents.

According to Mezopotamya, Soylu was sentenced on charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” due to her participation in events organized by the Aid and Solidarity Association for People Who Lost Relatives in the Cradle of Civilizations (MEBYA-DER).

The sentence was handed down to Soylu by the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court at the fourth hearing of the trial, where she was represented by her lawyer Muhittin Muğuç.

The court’s unanimous verdict came despite Muğuç’s defense, in which he argued that MEBYA-DER was founded to prevent the vandalizing of graves and abusing or mutilating of the bodies of the Kurdish rebels who died in the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish security forces and that there was no concrete evidence showing that the association carried out activities on behalf of the PKK, Mezopotamya said.

The sentence was reportedly based on a secret witness statement that Soylu “played a role in the spiritual wing of the PKK” by attending the funerals of PKK members and expressing condolences in addition to participating in MEBYA-DER’s press statements.

Soylu is currently free on bail and has a week to appeal the sentence to a higher court.

Turkish authorities had conducted direct talks with Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU, for over two years until the summer of 2015, when the death of two police officers near the Syrian border became the official reason for its collapse.

Since then, there have been continuing clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces. More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK.

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