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Jailed former Kurdish mayor attends sister’s funeral under heavy security escort

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Former Diyarbakır co-mayor Gültan Kışanak from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was temporarily released from prison in Kocaeli province under heavy gendarmerie escort to attend her sister’s funeral in Elazığ, the Mezopotamya news agency reported on Wednesday.

The Kurdish journalist and politician, who has been behind bars since Oct. 30, 2016, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” in 2019.

Kışanak was taken to the funeral of her sister, Zeynep Özer, who died of kidney failure, on Tuesday following the approval of a request from her lawyer for her temporary release.

Security measures were taken at the Ehlibeyt Cemevi, an Alevi house of worship where Kışanak embraced her loved ones and accepted condolences, accompanied by a large number of gendarmes.

Among those who attended the funeral were Green Left Party (YSP) and HDP politicians in addition to Cihan Aydın, Kışanak’s lawyer and former president of the Diyarbakır Bar Association.

On August 7, 2021 Kışanak was also allowed to attend her father’s funeral. She had lost her brother Cumali Özer last year as well.

Dozens of HDP officials in Turkey are accused of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), although the party strongly denies any ties. The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and is 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 government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been trying to close down the HDP since March 2021 over its alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdish militants. The party faces charges of “attempting to destroy the indivisibility between the state and the people.”

The HDP says it is being singled out for standing up for Kurdish rights and resisting the government’s expanding crackdown on political freedoms and dissent.

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