Turkish court sentences HDP deputy Birlik to 21 months in prison over ‘insulting’ Erdoğan

A Turkish court in Şırnak province has sentenced pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Leyla Birlik to 1 year and 9 months in prison for allegedly “insulting” Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The penalty was not suspended.

According a report by pro-government Doğan news agency, the court increased the penalty from 1 year and 6 months to 1 year and 9 months in the third hearing held at Şırnak Criminal Court of First Instance on the ground that “the act of insult was committed openly.”

As HDP deputy Birlik did not attend the hearing her lawyers said that they will object to Gaziantep Regional Court of Justice. Tried for “insulting President” due to a statement she made in 2015, Birlik was arrested on November 4, 2016 and released on January 4, 2017.

Also a regional court in Ankara, on Tuesday, fined the HDP’s imprisoned co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş 15,000 Liras (3,980 USD) over a 2016 speech in which the judges deemed he insulted President Erdoğan although a lower court had earlier rejected Erdoğan’s lawsuit, one of the hundreds, on the grounds he was a public figure and thus had to put up with harsh rhetoric and criticism from rival politicians and the public.

The President was demanding 50,000 Liras from Demirtaş, already facing up to 142 years of imprisonment for allegations of separatism and ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Scores of people in Turkey have been detained or arrested or are under investigation on allegations of insulting President Erdoğan over their social media posts. As of the end of 2016, at least 10,000 people were under investigation on suspicion of terrorist propaganda and insulting senior state officials on social media.

A total of 1,080 people were convicted of insulting Erdoğan in 2016, according to data from Turkey’s Justice Ministry. Data also showed that 4,936 cases were launched against people on charges of insult in 2016.

Turkey has stepped up its crackdown on Kurdish politicians in recent times. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, while hundreds of local Kurdish politicians as well as 9 HDP deputies, including the party’s co-chairs, are behind bars on terror charges.

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