Turkey detains, sentences to prison, refers to Interpol Kurdish politicians

(Updates with Güven's release)

Turkish police in the southeastern Hakkari province has detained Leyla Güven, former deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), HDP’s Hakkari chapter announced on Thursday.

“The detention was due to her call for peace yesterday,” HDP Hakkari said in a tweet. “You cannot intimidate us with arbitrary arrests. Whatever happens we will shout out for peace.”

Güven had visited Hakkari to meet with the Peace Mothers, a civilian initiative of women calling for a peaceful resolution to Turkey’s Kurdish issue, and attended a press conference on Wednesday, Mezopotamya Agency reported. A member of the initiative, Fatma Turan, was also detained the same day for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turan and Güven were both released after giving statements at the police station, while the peace activist was put on parole.

Leyla Güven was stripped of her parliamentary status in June, when a Turkish court finalised a prison sentence over charges of terrorism. She had been arrested in January 2018, and was elected to parliament in the June 2018 elections. She was not released from prison despite her parliamentary status granting a suspension of persecution until the end of her term.

The lawmaker went on a hunger strike in November 2018, protesting prison conditions for political prisoners and Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) that Turkey has designated a terrorist organisation. She was released in January last year.

Following the stripping of her immunity, Güven was detained on June 5, to be released five days later.

Meanwhile in southeastern Diyarbakır, home to Turkey’s largest Kurdish population, the chief public prosecutor’s office petitioned the Justice Ministry to issue an INTERPOL red notice against another former HDP deputy, Osman Baydemir.

The Diyarbakır chief prosecutor demanded the notice in relation to a terrorism investigation against the former deputy and mayor of Diyarbakır, Mezopotamya reported.

Before the elections where Güven entered parliament, in April 2018, Baydemir had been stripped of his parliamentary status over a finalised prison sentence for terrorist propaganda. He has been living in Europe, and campaigning for Kurdish rights in Britain and Germany since.

In another development in Diyarbakır, former HDP lawmaker Sebahat Tuncel was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for insulting Erdoğan as well.

"Erdoğan is an utter misogynist," Tuncel had said in 2016, during a demonstration against the arrest of Diyarbakır's co-mayors Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı over terrorism charges. Tuncel's lawyer said her words had been cherry picked, which went against a similar ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concerning freedom of expression.

Tuncel is currently in the Kandıra Prison in the northwestern Kocaeli province, awaiting re-trial for a series of terrorism charges after her conviction was overturned by an appeals court in July last year. A month before the overturn order, the Kurdish politician had been acquitted of terrorist propaganda charges over a speech she gave after the hearing of another case against her in 2012.