Turkish court sentences pro-Kurdish HDP deputy Öcalan to 2.5 years for terror propaganda

A Turkish court on Thursday sentenced pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Dilek Öcalan, a niece of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), to two years, six months in prison for a speech she made at a funeral.

The Şanlıurfa 5th Criminal Court handed down the verdict in HDP deputy Öcalan’s case, in which she was tried for a speech at a funeral in the Viranşehir district of Şanlıurfa province. The court sentenced Öcalan to two years, six months in prison for “spreading terrorist propaganda.”

Another HDP deputy, Osman Baydemir, is also standing trial in the same court for identical offenses. The court will give its verdict on Baydemir on June 7.

The news comes the day after a 10-year sentence was approved by a regional appeals court for another HDP parliamentarian, Selma Irmak. 

PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan has been jailed in Turkey since 1999.

The Turkish government also detained pro-Kurdish Jinnews reporter Durket Süren on Thursday in Diyarbakır. Süren was reportedly on her way to Diyarbakır’s Lice district to follow up on a news story when she was detained at the entrance to the area.

Meanwhile, the owners and managing director of Hayatın Sesi TV, a left-wing Turkish television channel that was closed by a government decree issued under an ongoing state of emergency declared in the wake of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, face up to 13 years in prison each on charges of disseminating propaganda for multiple terrorist organisations, the left-wing Evrensel newspaper reported.

The owners of Hayatın Sesi TV, Mustafa Kara and İsmail Gökhan Bayram, and managing director Gökhan Çetin stand accused of spreading “propaganda on behalf of terrorist organisations” including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). They also each face seven-and-a-half year sentences on charges of producing “propaganda aiding terrorist groups.”

“Among the accusations are broadcasting the response of a citizen to the terrorist attack in Ankara and interviews with citizens from the Cudi neighbourhood [in Cizre] about what had happened in Cizre during clashes between PKK militants and Turkish security forces. Defending peace and demanding an end to the deaths have generally been viewed as equivalent to ‘terror propaganda’,” Çetin told the court at an earlier hearing in November 2017. The next hearing in the case is set for April 24.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 240 journalists and media workers were in jail as of February 22, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison, 205 were under arrest pending trial, while only 35 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 140 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

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