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Former HDP lawmaker faces 8 years in prison on insult charges

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Turkish prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of up to eight years for a former lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on charges of insulting the president and the government, the Gazete Karınca news website reported.

Former HDP lawmaker Selma Irmak has been indicted due to her remarks on a TV program in 2015 during which she criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government for controversial treatment given to the bodies of Kurds who were killed in clashes with Turkish security forces in the country’s southeast.

In her comments Irmak talked about the case of Hacı Lokman Birlik, a Kurdish man who was killed during a conflict with the Turkish army in October 2015 and whose dead body was tied to an armored police vehicle in the southeastern province of Şırnak. The Turkish police then filmed the incident and shared it on social media, which led to outrage among the country’s Kurds at the time.

The Kurdish politician also criticized the display of the naked body of Ekin Wan, a slain outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant, in Muş province and destruction of the Kurdish cemeteries.

Prosecutors consider Irmak’s statements critical of the controversial practices of the Turkish government against the Kurds an insult of President Erdoğan and his government.

Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.

The charges against Irmak are also based on Article 301 of the TCK, which stipulates a prison sentence of between six months and two years for insulting the Turkish state and the government. Irmak faces two consecutive charges under this article.

It is not uncommon in Turkey for Kurds, especially politicians, to face charges due to their remarks about the Kurds or the 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 failed coup.

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