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Former HDP deputy sentenced to prison after acquittal of identical charges 13 years earlier

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A former lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has been sentenced to one year in prison in the retrial of a 2009 proceeding in which he was acquitted of charges of spreading terrorist propaganda, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

Former HDP deputy Halil Aksoy, 75, was indicted in 2009 on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda in a speech when he was the İstanbul provincial chair of the now-defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP).

In the speech Aksoy referred to slain militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as “our martyrs” and described jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan as “our leader.”

The PKK, which has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s southeast since 1984, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

A high criminal court in İstanbul in 2009, however, acquitted the politician of the charges, referring to articles of the Turkish Constitution governing freedom of expression as well as relevant rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.

When a prosecutor objected to the court’s ruling and the Supreme Court of Appeals reversed the local court’s ruling, Aksoy was retried.

In the final hearing on Tuesday, the İstanbul 11th High Criminal Court, which ruled to acquit the politician of the terrorism propaganda charges in 2009, decided to sentence him to one year in prison on the same charges.

The court also refused to suspend the sentence because Aksoy had been given a sentence of eight years, nine months in another trial on charges of terrorist organization membership, in reference to the PKK.

He was released from prison in December 2020 in consideration of the five years he had served. He is known to be suffering multiple health problems.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have long portrayed the HDP as the political front of the PKK. The party denies links to the PKK and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish issue and is only coming under attack because of its strong opposition to Erdoğan’s 20-year rule.

Hundreds of HDP politicians including the party’s former co-chairs have been behind bars for several years on bogus terrorism charges.

The Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.

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