Apr 10 2018

Turkish appeals court sentences opposition parliamentarian to seven years

A Turkish appeals court has sentenced a member of parliament for the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to more than seven years in prison for terrorism propaganda, Kurdish movement news agency Mesopotamia said.

Burcu Çelik Özkan, the deputy for the eastern province of Muş, was sentenced to seven years, three months and 10 days on charges of making propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been fighting Turkey for more than three decades.

She had previously been given six years for the offence by a lower court, but the sentence was dropped and the case retried on appeal.

“You will get the hell out of this place,” Özkan was accused of having said to security personnel during the July 2015 general election campaign. “We know well how to turn that Kalashnikov you are pointing at us back towards you.”

Turkey, the United States and the European Union all list PKK as a terrorist organisation.

Prosecutors also said Özkan attended the funerals of PKK militants Berjin Demirkaya and Özgür Akınel and gave talks at the wakes that constituted terror propaganda, charges she denied.

“There is no concrete evidence that I attended the wakes,” Özkan said.

She also gave a different account of her actions in 2015 to that of the prosecution, saying that she had been opposing the presence of security forces at ballot boxes intended to intimidate voters.

“On July 7, 2015 I went to the towns of Sungu and Karaağaç with other candidate colleagues to see electoral and ballot box security in the field. There were security guards waiting at the ballot boxes with Kalashnikovs in Karaağaç,” Özkan said.

“We lodged our objections to them. We faced violence, insults and swearing from the village guards. They hit my hand with a gun.”

The court gave her five years for “threats making use of a terror organisation’s power to frighten,” one year and three months for “terror organisation propaganda,” and one year and 10 days for “committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation while not being a member of an armed terrorist organisation”.