Turkey's pro-Kurdish party leader faces 142 years in prison

AP News
Posted: Jan 17, 2017 1:06 PM

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish prosecutors charged the chairman of the country's pro-Kurdish party on Tuesday with leading a terror organization, engaging in terror propaganda and other crimes for which they are seeking a 142-year prison sentence, the state-run news agency reported.

Anadolu Agency said an indictment accuses Peoples' Democracy Party Chairman Selahattin Demirtas of being a leader of Turkey's outlawed Kurdish rebels and holds him responsible for street violence that broke out in 2014 during protests of government policies on Syria.

The violence led to more than 30 deaths.

Figen Yuksekdag, who co-chairs the party known as HDP, faces up to 83 years in prison, according to the same indictment, prepared by prosecutors in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.

The two are charged with leading a terror organization, engaging in terror propaganda and violating anti-sedition legislation laws and legislation governing public demonstration and protests, Anadolu reported.

The government alleges that HDP — the nations' third-largest party — is linked to the rebels of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The party denies the accusation.

Parliament stripped lawmakers of legal immunity last year, paving the way for the arrests of 11 HDP legislators — including Demirtas and Yuksekdag — on terror-related charges. Several pro-Kurdish mayors also have been arrested since then.

The arrests follow the collapse of a fragile peace process between the state and the PKK in 2015. The group is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its Western allies.

The indictment needs to be approved by a court before a trial date is set.