The two co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party in Turkey were sentenced to a total of 225 years for alleged links to the Kurdish guerrilla, after 75 waiting days in jail.
Turkey sentenced Selahattin Demirtas to 142 years total Tuesday for a variety of crimes, including “managing” the PKK and its affiliated political organization KCK and “disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state and spreading terrorist propaganda.” He and co-chair Figen Yuksedag were originally detained for refusing to comply with a counterterrorism investigation and to appear to testify about a probe by the prosecutor of Diyarbakir.
“I am not a manager, member, spokesperson, or a sympathizer of PKK; I’m the co-chair of HDP,” said Demirtas in a court testimony on January 6.
“Unity cannot be established by excluding democratic opposition, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, which is the third-largest political party in the country. The government should use its energy not to attack the HDP, but to provide social peace and security,” he said.
Turkey presented the indictments to the High Criminal Court, reported state media, and rejected the Council of Europe’s request to visit the leaders in their jail cells last week.
Yuksedag, who was jailed on the same day, faces a sentence of 83 years for working with the now-defunct Democratic Society Congress (DTK), a Kurdish nationalist party. Both deny the accusations.
Formed out of the Gezi protests, the HDP supports the rights of women, the LGBT community and Kurds and aligns itself with the European Union. Top positions in the party are split between a man and a woman to promote gender parity.
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The HDP was accused of breaking the ruling AK Party's comfortable majority and forcing it to form a coalition government when it soared in popularity in the 2015 parliamentary elections.
The assembly recently voted to lift parliamentary immunity, opening the doors for the prosecution of HDP members. Its deputies have been targeted with an onslaught of arrest warrants and investigations for alleged association with the outlawed PKK, which is fighting against state forces in Turkey’s southeast. The party has denied any links to the PKK.
Yuksedag was sentenced to 10 months in prison on Wednesday for participating in the funeral of a communist party member in 2012, according to Firat news agency.