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Ousted Kurdish mayor sentenced to 15 years in prison on terrorism charges

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A Turkish court has handed down a prison sentence of 15 years to a former Kurdish mayor on two charges of membership in a terrorist organization, the Gazete Duvar news website reported.

The 15-year  sentence was handed down to Gülşen Özer, the former co-mayor of Bismil in the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır, by the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court at the last hearing of her trial on Monday.

Özer, who was among the dozens of democratically elected Kurdish mayors removed from office by the Interior Ministry on accusations of terrorism following their election in 2019, stood trial due to her attendance at 39 news conferences, events and other activities organized by her party, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and events organized by the Tevgera Jinên Azad (Free Women’s Movement) in 2018. She was the HDP’s co-chair of the Diyarbakır provincial branch at the time.

Özer’s lawyer Serhat Karaşin told the court during Monday’s hearing that his client cannot be accused of membership in a terrorist organization just because she attended some events organized by her party. He said Özer attended those events as an HDP official and was engaged in political but not terrorist activity.

The court, however, decided to give the politician a lengthy prison sentence. Özer will not be jailed during the appeals process.

Dozens of HDP officials in Turkey are accused of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

A government crackdown on Kurdish parties and politicians in Turkey reached new heights following a coup attempt in the country in July 2016.

Dozens of democratically elected Kurdish mayors were removed from office, while a large number of Kurdish politicians, including the former co-chairs of the HDP, were jailed following the coup attempt.

The party currently faces a closure case on charges of “attempting to destroy the indivisibility between the state and the people.”

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