Turkish court releases pro-Kurdish HDP’s Kemalbay on judicial probation

Former co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP) Serpil Kemalbay, who was detained in Ankara on Feb. 13, 2018, has been released on Tuesday on judicial probation by a court in Ankara, Cumhuriyet daily reported. According to the report, the court also imposed a travel ban on Kemalbay.

The Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office had issued a detention warrant for Kemalbay for disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization in a speech on Feb. 11, 2018 at a party congress in Ankara. The same prosecutor’s office on Feb. 12 launched an investigation into newly elected HDP Co-chairperson Pervin Buldan and HDP deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder over remarks on a Turkish military operation in the Afrin region of Syria during a party congress.

According to a statement from the prosecutor’s office, the investigation was initiated for putting posters of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan in the congress hall; making statements that tried to portray the Turkish military operation in Afrin as being against the Kurdish people; praising the leader of a terrorist organization; disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization; and inciting hatred and hostility among the people.

The Ankara prosecutor’s office had on Friday issued detention warrants for Kemalbay and 17 others on the grounds that they had criticized a Turkish military incursion in northern Syria.

The Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch in Afrin against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed PKK.

The Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have reacted strongly to people who oppose the operation, and prosecutor’s offices have initiated investigations into people who share social media messages critical of the operation.

Earlier last week Turkish police teams detained 31 HDP and Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK) officials in raids on their homes in İstanbul.

Moreover, the six-year prison sentence given to HDP deputy Burcu Çelik Özkan by Muş 1st High Criminal Court has been overturned and the case sent to retrialr by Erzurum Regional General Court 2nd Penal Chamber. According to the new ruling, the classification of the offense will be evaluated, and the case will be retried at provincial higher court on February 27, 2018.

Meanwhile, at least 15 people including pro-Kurdish activist Celalettin Can have been sent to prison by an İstanbul court on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, the Diken news portal reported.

According to the report, İstanbul police detained at least 29 people affiliated with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) and  the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK) on February 9, 2018. An İstanbul court on Tuesday ruled for the arrest of 16 of the detainees on charges of “membership in an terrorist organization.”

Among the arrestees there are Mehmet Şamil Altan, Filiz Yılmaz, Gonca Yangöz, Abdulselam Yolcu, Taylan Talaş, Hasan Hüseyin Gencer, Bedia Aydemir, Metin İlan, Suphi Yıldız, Atilla Sayır, Erhan Sarıkaya, Taylan Ürün, Vahit Dalgıç, Can Memiş and Gülsen Biter.

It has also been reported that 7 members of Turkish parliament from HDP have been hit with a list of criminal indictments which includes terror charges, the Turkish news site Diken reports. The charges include “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organisation,” “publicly insulting the Turkish nation, military and security forces,” “praising crime and criminals,” and “insulting the president.”

The indictment against the seven deputies accuses them of praising the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, attending the funerals of PKK members, besides the terrorism propaganda charge.

The HDP has been under tremendous pressure since it became the first predominantly Kurdish political party to break the ten percent electoral threshold and enter Turkey’s parliament in June 2015, narrowly defending its presence in parliament during the snap elections later that year.

A resurgence of violence between Turkish armed forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in July that year led to a crackdown on HDP politicians, many of whom are accused by the government of being linked to the PKK, which has a long history of conflict with Turkish armed forces since it started an insurgency in the 1980s.

The Turkish parliament voted to lift immunities from prosecution from members of parliament in May 2016, leading to the arrest of a number of them and dozens of party members, including former party co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ.

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