Kurdish politician suffering from dementia detained in İstanbul

Kurdish politician Aysel Tuğluk was released from jail in northwest Turkey in October 2022. (Photo: Twitter)

A Kurdish politician who was released from prison last year following a long-awaited medical report stating that her dementia did not allow her to remain behind bars has been detained in İstanbul, Turkish Minute reported, citing a lawyers association.

The Association for the Freedom of Lawyers (ÖHD) announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Aysel Tuğluk had been detained at her İstanbul home as part of an  investigation launched in 2012.

The ÖHD said Tuğluk, 58, was taken to the Çağlayan Courthouse by the police.

“The judicial harassment of Aysel Tuğluk, whose sentence was suspended due to her dementia, continues,” the ÖHD said.

Lawyer and vice president of the Human Rights Association (İHD) Eren Keskin was outraged by the news of Tuğluk’s detention.

“Aysel cannot remember things due to the pressure they [Turkish authorities] imposed on her and the trauma she was made to go through. I wonder what they are going to ask her. What an act of cruelty,” she tweeted.

Tuğluk was the deputy co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) before her arrest in 2016. The party is currently in the Turkish Parliament under the name of the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP).

The politician’s release from jail in northwest Turkey in October 2022 came following months of campaigning for her by rights activists and opposition politicians due to her medical condition.

Tuğluk was sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in prison for membership in a “terrorist organization,” the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The PKK, which has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s southeast since 1984, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

Her supporters believe she developed dementia after witnessing Turkish nationalists attack her mother’s 2017 funeral in Ankara, which the authorities allowed her to attend.

Tuğluk was arrested for her activities with the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an organization that Turkish authorities consider linked to the PKK.

Kurdish politicians face frequent legal harassment and arrest in Turkey due to their alleged links to the PKK although they deny having any links with the militant group and say they are working for the peaceful settlement of Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish issue.

The Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.

Hundreds of Kurdish politicians, including former HDP co-chairs, are behind bars on terrorism charges, while most of the 65 HDP mayors elected in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast in 2019 have been replaced by government-appointed trustees.

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