Turkey’s top bar association holds ‘Justice Vigil’ for slain pro-Kurdish party staffer

Erinç Sağkan, head of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB), and other bar association presidents held a “Justice Vigil” in front of a courthouse in western İzmir province on Monday for a political party staffer who was killed in an attack last year, Turkish Minute reported.

Deniz Poyraz, 38, who worked in the İzmir office of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was killed in an attack in June 2021.

The attack came at a time of increased pressure on the party, which is accused of links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, as it faces a closure case on terrorism charges, and when hundreds of its politicians including two former co-chairs are behind bars on politically motivated charges.

According to Turkish media reports, the vigil will also see the attendance of HDP Co-chair Mithat Sancar and representatives from nongovernmental organizations, and it will take place a day before the seventh hearing of the trial of Onur Gencer, the then-27-year-old assailant who admitted to killing Poyraz, turned himself in to the police and was arrested by a court the next day.

He faces aggravated life on charges of premeditated murder and an additional seven years on charges of violating the privacy of a workplace and property damage.

Tuesday’s hearing is expected to see decisions from the judges, who had heard witness testimony without the presence of lawyers and the opinion of the prosecutor at the last hearing.

“Despite the … unlawfulness taking place at the last hearing … the witnesses were questioned, time was allotted to hear the defense of the accused and the hearing was adjourned. The state is in a hurry about this. They want to end this case as soon as possible,” lawyer İmdat Ataş told the Evrensel daily over the weekend.

It has emerged that Gencer had previously posted photos on social media making an ultranationalist hand gesture associated with the Grey Wolves, a far-right group with close ties to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as well as their election partner, the MHP, have long portrayed the HDP as the political front of the PKK. The party denies links to the PKK and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish issue and is only coming under attack because of its strong opposition to Erdoğan’s 20-year rule.

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.

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