Turkey’s Court of Appeals approves prison sentence for pro-Kurdish HDP deputy Baydemir

A 17-month prison sentence given to pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Osman Baydemir has been approved by Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals, with reports circulating that Baydemir could be stripped of his parliamentary status as well.

Baydemir was convicted of insulting a police officer during his term as mayor of the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality.

Pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF) reported that if an official letter from the Turkish Prime Ministry is read in Parliament’s General Assembly, Baydemir will also lose his parliamentary status.

HDP deputies Figen Yüksekdağ, Nursel Aydoğan, Besime Konca, Ferhat Encu and İbrahim Ayhan have already been stripped of their status in Parliament due to prison sentences approved by higher courts. On February 27, 2018, the crime of “insult” was cited for the first time as the reason for the loss of Ahmet Yıldırım’s deputy status. If Baydemir suffers the same fate for an identical crime, the removal of deputy status for “insult” will officially have set a precedent.

Meanwhile, İstanbul police carried out a raid on the HDP office in the Avcılar district of İstanbul late Wednesday evening. Following a detailed search of the premises, police detained some 25 party members including HDP district co-chairs Mahmur Çakan and Şebnem Değerli.

Also on Thursday, Turkish police detained two people and seized a cake being delivered to the headquarters of the Diyarbakır branch of the HDP. The cake, decorated in the traditional Kurdish colours of green, red and yellow and bearing the slogan “The truth is love, love is living freely,” was delivered on the birthday of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

HDP provincial co-chair Şerif Camcı said the cake was intended to thank those who had taken voluntary roles during the celebrations last month of the Kurdish new year. Across the city, security measures were heightened in fear of a reaction on Öcalan’s birthday, and police said they posted extra security outside the HDP building upon hearing there was to be a celebration there.

The Turkish government’s crackdown on the Kurdish political movement began in late 2016 with the arrest of high profile politicians, including the party’s then co-chairs, Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, which led to the detention of at least 5,000 members of the HDP, including 80 mayors.

Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast. There are currently 10 HDP deputies behind bars. The developments have attracted widespread criticism from the region and Western countries.

Turkish authorities had conducted direct talks with Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the outlawed PKK for several years until a truce in effect collapsed in the summer of 2015. Since then, there have been heavy clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces.

More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. Over 1,200 Turkish security personnel and civilians, including a number of women and children, have been killed since July 2015 alone, when the Turkish government and the PKK resumed the armed struggle.

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