A Turkish court sentenced pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Lezgin Botan to 18 years in prison on Friday.
According to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), the Van 2nd High Criminal Court sentenced Botan to 18 years in prison for “damaging the integrity of the state,” “disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization” and “membership in a terrorist organization.”
Botan’s lawyers said there is no indication of the commission of a violent crime in the prosecutors’ indictment and that Botan was basically sentenced for speeches he delivered on several occasions. The court acquitted Adam Geveri, who is also an HDP deputy, of the same charges.
Meanwhile, Turkish police and soldiers reportedly removed several tombstones from the the graves of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in eastern Anatolia. Security forces raided the Asri Cemetery in the Diyadin district of Ağrı province and removed the gravestones of PKK militants. Turkish authorities recently desecrated the graves of PKK members in Bitlis, Mardin and Diyarbakır provinces.
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 10 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 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.