Three Kurdish politicians in Turkey facing up to 41 years in prison on terror charges

Turkish prosecutors on Wednesday demanded between nine to 41 years in prison for former Kurdish lawmakers, Sebahat Tuncel, Gültan Kışanak and Leyla Güven on terror charges.

A prosecutor in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır province demanded up to 25 years in prison for Leyla Güven over a case where the former member of parliament faces a combined 18 charges of terrorism, Mezopotamya Agency reported on Wednesday.

Another prosecutor in the nearby Malatya province demanded 26 years 8 months in prison for Kışanak and Tuncel over two counts each of terrorist propaganda.

The prosecutor also demanded 22.5 years for Kışanak on charges of running a terrorist organisation, and 15 years for Tuncel for membership of a terrorist organisation.

Among charges Güven faces are establishing a terrorist organisation, membership of a terrorist organisation, instigating protests, and not ending a protest when prompted by the police.

In Wednesday’s hearing, the prosecutor pushed for a prison sentence for two counts of membership of a terrorist organisation and disseminating terrorist propaganda, and Güven’s acquittal of the remaining 14 charges.

The prosecutor said the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), where Güven is co-chair, had ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and the United States, and aimed to establish Kurdish national unity.

The indictment included a witness testimony by Evindar Oruç, who said the Leyla she spoke of in her testimony to the police was not Leyla Güven.

Upon Güven’s lawyers appeal for time to prepare a defence, the court postponed the hearing to Dec. 21.

Güven was stripped of her parliamentary status in June, when a prison sentence over separate charges of terrorism was finalized. She was briefly detained in September, and released on parole in the southeastern Hakkari province, where Güven had met with the Peace Mothers, a civilian initiative of women calling for a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish issue.

The popular politician had previously been arrested in Jan. 2018, and was released when she was elected to parliament in June the same year. In the current lawsuit against her, the prosecutor is calling for the suspension of Güven’s rights to participate in elections and NGOs until the end of her sentence, in case she is convicted.

A regional court had overturned the original ruling on Kışanak and Tuncel, who had been sentenced to 14 years and 3 months and 15 years in prison over membership of a terrorist organisation and terrorist propaganda.

Tuncel was already serving a five year and three months prison sentence over a separate propaganda conviction, while Kışanak was serving a 14 year sentence over propaganda and membership of terrorist organisation charges. Both attended the hearing from prison, via video conferencing.

The prosecutor submitted his demand for prison sentences before the two women gave their defence statements, Mezopotamya news agency reported. Kışanak and Tuncel refused to submit a defence, and Kışanak said she was not able to attend hearings, get information on what cases were combined, and wasn’t able to communicate well with her lawyers.

“All allegations stem from me utilizing my legitimate political rights,” Kışanak said. “I feel pity for the members of this judiciary, since the government threatened the constitutional court. Those who give out these rulings should not sleep soundly, but they are forced to forego their conscience and obey orders.”

Kışanak said the rapid progression of the case could be a signal for an upcoming election. “The last time, we were both sentenced in a rush because the elections were coming up. I wonder if there is another election coming, looking at these demands,” she said.

“I said the Kurdish issue should be resolved via politics, not at courts, that was my crime,” Tuncel said. “Will Kurds give up on politics because we are denied, assimilated, massacred? Never. We will hold on to our cause tighter.”