Oct 16 2018

Court rejects imprisoned HDP deputy Leyla Güven’s appeal for release

A Turkish court has rejected an appeal for release by Leyla Güven, a deputy for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) held since January on terror-related charges, Turkish news site Evrensel has reported.

Güven’s lawyers had filed the appeal after another politician, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s Istanbul deputy Enis Berberoğlu, won an appeal in September to have his sentence postponed until the end of his term in parliament.

Berberoğlu was released after serving 16 months of a five-year 10-month prison sentence for revealing government secrets. He had allegedly leaked information on truckloads of weapons sent by Turkish intelligence operatives to rebel groups in Syria.

The release of the CHP deputy will not serve as a precedent, however, for Güven, who must remain in pre-trial accused of co-chairing the Democratic Society Congress, a part of the Kurdish political movement that Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government calls a terrorist organisation.

Güven has also been accused of membership of a terrorist organisation based on other activities, including her statements criticising Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish militia forces in Afrin, an enclave in northwest Syria invaded by Turkey in January.

The HDP lawmaker was temporarily released on June 29, five days after winning a seat in parliament representing the southeastern city of Hakkari in the parliamentary elections, on the basis that parliamentarians in Turkey are granted immunity.

A higher court ordered her to be arrested again on the same day, however, and Turkish press reported that the prosecutor had requested a prison sentence of up to 31 years.

Turkey has charged many of the HDP’s senior politicians with membership of a terrorist organisation based on alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for decades.

HDP politicians behind bars include Selahattin Demirtaş, a former co-chair of the party who ran as its candidate from his jail cell in the presidential election this year.