Kurdish politician Leyla Güven convicted upon ECHR ruling leak, says lawyer

Veteran Kurdish politician Leyla Güven was convicted of terrorism charges when a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the former leader of her party, Selahattin Demirtaş, was leaked to the local court before it was made public, Mezopotamya agency reported on Friday.

Demirtaş, former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was arrested in 2016 over terrorism charges that he denies, and the ECHR ruled last week that the original case against the Kurdish leader didn’t merit arrest.

Güven’s lawyer Şivan Cemil Özen accused the Turkish judge on the panel of the ECHR Grand Chamber of leaking the ruling before it came out.

Güven, who had been stripped of her parliamentary status in June, was convicted to 22 years in prison for terrorist propaganda and membership in a terrorist organisation last week, one day before the Demirtaş ruling came out. One of the charges against her was that she labelled a Turkish military operation against Syrian Kurdish groups an “invasion.”

The indictment against Güven stated that the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) that Güven was co-chair at was founded upon orders from the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan - a crime identified in Turkey’s anti-terror laws.

According to Özen, the source of this statement was Öcalan’s talks with his lawyers, which were confidential and couldn’t lawfully be recorded to be used as evidence. This provision in the law changed during the state of emergency declared following a failed coup attempt in 2016.

The DTK isn’t an illegal organisation, Özen said, citing Parliamentary Chair Cemil Çiçek inviting DTK administrators to official receptions in 2012, and members participating in efforts to reform Turkey’s constitution.

As it stands, the DTK is an umbrella organisation for various factions under the Kurdish political movement.

The ECHR ruling on Demirtaş stated that involvement with the DTK couldn’t be construed as evidence of membership of a terrorist organisation.

Özen accused Turkish judge Saadet Yüksel of having leaked the ruling before it was out, to allow for Güven to be convicted before the ruling was officially out, thus eliminating the chance of her lawyers basing an appeal on it.

“The statement regarding the DTK would form the basis of our defence, and the court knew that it couldn’t be cited as a criminal organisation,” Özen said. “They didn’t even give us one week of extension.”

Özen and the rest of Güven’s legal team had requested a week to prepare their defence, but their request wasn’t granted.