Turkish court sentences HDP Deputy to 10 years jail for PKK membership

The People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Diyarbakır MP Remziye Tosun was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday for "membership in an armed terrorist organization".

In March, the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor's Office opened an investigation under Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code against Tosun for “inciting the public to enmity and hatred”. Article 216 punishes anyone who causes one ethnic group to be “rancorous or hostile against another group” with one to three years in prison.

The prosecution was reportedly related to "some expressions used in the announcement that the HDP group made in some neighborhoods in Diyarbakır's central Sur and Yenişehir districts regarding the novel coronavirus (Covid-19)", according to BirGun in March.

The HDP’s two former leaders, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ are currently in prison after being sentenced on similar accusations of membership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Furthermore, 47 of the 65 municipalities that the HDP won in 2019 local elections have had their mayors replaced by officials appointed by the government.

According to the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, “Tosun was found guilty of treating wounded Kurdish militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during a 2015 Turkish army operation in the southeastern district of Sur.”

Turkish leftist website Duvar stated that the prosecution presented seven former PKK members as witnesses, who testified that “Tosun had treated their injuries at her home during the violent clashes of 2016 in Diyarbakır’s Sur district, while a PKK member who turned himself in said that Tosun had facilitated his transfer to the armed branches of the PKK, often referred to as “the mountains” due to their location at the southeast Turkish border.”

Tosun’s lawyer Muharrem Şahin questioned the legitimacy of the testimony made against her, saying that the testimony was based on “statements that were taken by force”.

Tosun remains free to appeal the conviction. If she loses the appeal, the Turkish parliament will then decide whether to lift her parliamentary immunity. 

HDP MP for Batman Omer Kulpu responded to the sentencing: “Our deputy, Remziye Tosun, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Diyarbakır. The punishment given to Tosun is a blow to democratic politics and the will of the people. You can neither prevent us from doing democratic politics nor our women's struggle!”