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Former Kurdish MP arrested over 2014 protests in reaction to ISIL siege of Syrian Kurdish town

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Hüda Kaya, a former member of the Turkish parliament from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was arrested following her detention at İstanbul Airport on Wednesday on charges of “participating in an unlawful assembly,” part of an ongoing investigation related to the “Kobanê trial,” the Artı Gerçek news website reported, citing lawyer Erselan Aktan.

The “Kobanê trial” is a prosecution that has led to the imprisonment of dozens of Kurdish politicians for allegedly instigating a series of protests in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern provinces in 2014, in reaction to clashes between Syrian Kurds and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The deadly 2014 protests erupted as ISIL militants laid siege to the predominantly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobanê. Thirty-seven people died in demonstrations against the Turkish army’s inaction in the face of the ISIL offensive.

Kaya was taken into custody just 10 minutes before her scheduled flight. She faces charges of “participating in an unlawful assembly and resisting dispersal despite warnings and use of force,” as part of an ongoing investigation related to the Kobanê trial. The former lawmaker was arrested later on Wednesday based on a decision from the Ankara 4th Penal Court of Peace.

Kaya’s lawyer Zilan Levent said the detention occurred despite Kaya’s willingness to cooperate with authorities. “She had been accessible and had even offered to give her statement multiple times,” Levent said.

The lawyer described the detention as “unlawful,” adding that Kaya had been at the airport four hours prior to her flight and had completed all passport procedures without issue.

Dozens of Kurdish politicians 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 former party executives, were jailed following the coup attempt.

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