Turkish appeals court approves sentences for pro-Kurdish politicians

A Turkish appeals court has approved the sentences of more than 100 defendants in a landmark case against Kurdish political figures, including prison sentences for three members of parliament and the suspended mayor of Mardin, secularist news outlet Halk TV reported on Tuesday.

Turkey’s Court of Cassation ruled that the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)’s deputies for Mardin and Diyarbakır, Pero Dündar and Musa Farisoğulları, will each serve nine-year sentences for membership of a terrorist organisation, while HDP Hakkari deputy Leyla Güven received a six-year-and-three-month sentence on the same charge.

The court also approved the 15-month sentence handed to Ahmet Türk, the HDP’s mayor of Mardin whom the government replaced in August over accusations of links to the outlawed militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Turkish judiciary launched investigations into more than 1,000 people in 2009 and 2010 for membership of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella political organisation that included political organisations from Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq.

Turkey outlawed the KCK over its affiliation with the PKK, a militant organisation that has fought the Turkish state for Kurdish self-rule since in 1984.

The eight-year KCK trials of 154 Kurdish politicians, journalists, activists and others resulted in 99 people receiving prison sentences worth a combined total of nearly 110,000 years in 2017.

The latest decision in the trial from Turkey’s highest appeals court approved the sentences handed out to 118 people, but reversed the judgements against 36 people.

Among those who had their sentences quashed was HDP deputy for Van, Tayip Temel, who had faced an 18-year prison sentence for leading a terrorist organisation.

The Kurdish political movement in Turkey has been under severe pressure since peace talks between the PKK and the Turkish government broke down in 2015.

After the resumption of conflict between Turkish security forces and the PKK, parliament voted to lift parliamentary immunity, allowing the state to prosecute politicians from the HDP, Turkey’s largest pro-Kurdish political party and the first to gain seats in parliament by passing the country’s 10-percent electoral threshold in 2015.

In August, Turkey’s Interior Ministry removed the HDP mayors of Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin over alleged links to the PKK.

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