Turkey’s pro-Kurdish HDP stages countrywide protests on 2nd anniversary of mass arrests

Photo: Ecrensel daily.

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on Sunday held protests throughout the country against the detention and arrest of 6,000 members of the party, according to a report by online news outlet Diken.

The HDP protests took place on the second anniversary of the arrest of 11 HDP deputies on terrorism charges for their alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Almost one in three members of the HDP has been detained since a ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish state collapsed in July 2015.

Among those arrested were 43 HDP provincial co-chairs and 101 HDP district co-chairs as well as former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, who remain in jail facing hundreds of years in prison on charges of terrorism.

HDP Co-chair Sezai Temelli, who held a press conference at party headquarters in Ankara, highlighted that around 6,000 members of the HDP are currently behind bars, Diken reported.

A total of 53 HDP mayors are still under arrest, Temelli added, while recalling that the government had appointed trustees to 96 municipalities in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeastern provinces.

Speaking at a party gathering in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, HDP deputy Hişyar Özsoy also recalled that nine of the 11 deputies arrested on Nov. 4, 2016 are still behind bars.

“At a time when the space for the democratic struggle is being destroyed by political operations and illegal practices, we continue to strive to show that these attacks are futile,’’ Özsoy said.

Press releases were also read in front of the Edirne F Type Closed Prison and Kandıra F Type Closed Prison on Sunday.

HDP deputies Zülayha Gülüm, Tuma Çelik, Zeynel Özen, and TİP Chairman Erkan Baş wanted to read a press statement in front of the prison in Edirne but encountered a police blockade at the Saraykapı entrance before reaching the prison.

The deputies were told by police that the press conference was forbidden by the Edirne Governor’s Office and that they would not be allowed in. Police forcibly removed HDP members and journalists. Deputies Gülüm, Özen and Çelik reportedly remained trapped in the police cordon.

The statement was finally read by Çelik under the police blockade. “Attacking us, silencing us, trying to make us step back has only achieved the contrary.” said the deputy. “We promise our friends in prison and all our people that this struggle will be won. The current political power has taken the law under its control, but they will be held to account for it,” she added.

HDP group vice chairman Fatma Kurtulan and deputies Oya Ersoy and Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu went to the Kocaeli Kandira F Type Closed Prison as they wanted to visit the deputies in custody. However, the Justice Ministry rejected the application made by the deputies. Gendarmes blocked the deputies’s way in front of the prison. The deputies wanted to see the prison warden but were told by gendarmes that he did not want to see them.

At the press conference, a message from former HDP Co-chair Yüksekdağ was read by HDP deputy Asiye Kolçak. “The HDP has been a symbol of resistance and a symbol of the future for a society that has experienced attacks, persecution and injustice for two years. We, too, as the people’s politicians held hostage, have never forgotten the source of this solidity. We have worked for the liberation of women, the memories and bequests of our forebears, the values of labor, freedom and peace, and for our people and voters,” Yüksekdağ wrote.

Meanwhile, a Turkish court on Monday ruled for the continuation of Yüksekdağ’s arrest.

The 8th hearing in the trial was held at the Ankara 16th High Criminal Court. The hearing, which took place at Sincan Prison, was not attended by Yüksekdağ herself.

Yüksekdağ’s continued incarceration was justified on grounds of “profound criminal suspicion.” The next hearing was set for January 16, 2019.

The HDP, which is gearing up for the March 2019 local elections, managed to pass the 10 percent threshold for entering parliament on June 24, 2018, winning 11,7 percent of the vote (67 seats) in the country’s general election.

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