Turkey convicts 68 Kurdish politicians

A Turkish court in the eastern Malatya province convicted Mehmet Zırığ, former mayor of the southeastern town of Cizre in the Şırnak province, to six years and three months in prison over terrorism charges, along with 67 other Kurdish politicians, Rudaw Turkish reported on Wednesday.

Among the 67 politicians were former mayors, city councillors and members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), of which Zırığ was also a member.

Zırığ was convicted of membership of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since the 1980’s, while the remaining 67 suspects were convicted of the same charges, with sentences ranging from six years and three months to 10 years in prison.

Eleven people were acquitted of terrorism charges, including for leading a terrorist organisation.

“This ruling is in a way documenting that the government’s partnership with FETÖ continues,” Zırığ said in a tweet following his conviction, referring to followers of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who was once a close ally of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) but is currently accused of having masterminded several attempts to overthrow AKP governments.

The investigation pertaining to the case had been started by pro-Gülen prosecutors back in 2011, Zırığ added.

In a televised interview, Zırığ said most of the prosecutors behind this and similar cases against the HDP were currently serving time in prison on terrorism charges themselves.     

Zırığ was removed from office in October last year, over another case where he was charged with praising criminals. He faced a judge for this case on Thursday, after the first conviction.

The two people Zırığ was accused of praising were Mehmet Tunç, a local activist who died in a fire in HDP stronghold Cizre during the months-long protests of 2015 and 2016, and former HDP lawmaker Leyla Güven, whose parliamentary status was revoked on June 4 along with her colleague Musa Farisoğulları.

Güven and Farisoğulları had appealed to Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM), which rejected the appeals on Thursday, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. The AYM ruling said parliament, not the court, had authority to rule for revocation or restitution.

“I am proud of Leyla Güven, who has spent great efforts for the struggle for freedom and democracy for years,” Mezopotamya Agency cited Zırığ as saying during his defence, adding that Tunç had been a beloved figure in the town as an activist.