Turkish court approves pro-Kurdish HDP deputy Baluken’s sentence of more than 16 years in prison

A Turkish regional appeals court on Wednesday approved a prison sentence of 16 years, eight months handed down by a local court to pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy İdris Baluken.

HDP Diyarbakır deputy Baluken, who was a member of the “İmralı Delegation” during the Kurdish issue settlement process launched by then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was arrested on November 4, 2016. He was released on January 30, 2017. However, upon an appeal against his release, he was re-jailed on February 17, 2018.

The Gaziantep Regional Court of Justice approved the prison sentence given by a local court to Baluken, who has also been jailed pending trial for 18 months for alleged “membership in a terrorist organisation.”

The HDP is the second-largest opposition party in the Turkish Parliament. 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 nine 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 Kurdistan Workers Party (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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