Turkish court sentences pro-Kurdish HDP deputy Zeydan to 8 years in prison

A Turkish court in Diyarbakir on Thursday upheld a previously reversed conviction for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Abdullah Zeydan, sentencing him to 8 years, 1 month, and 15 days in prison.

During Zeydan’s retrial, the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court on Thursday again sentenced the Kurdish deputy to eight years, one month and 15 days in prison. The Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court on Jan. 4, 2018 sentenced HDP deputy İdris Baluken to 16 years, eight months in prison on charges of membership in an armed terror group, disrupting the unity and integrity of the state, disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization and taking part in illegal demonstrations.

Authorities already hold Zeydan along with HDP’s co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş in a prison in the northwestern city of Edirne since late 2016. Zeydan was being tried for the second time after a regional higher court in the city of Gaziantep overturned the same sentence three months ago. Prosecutors accused him of “aiding a terrorist organization and disseminating its propaganda,” according to news outlet Kurdistan 24.

“This was just another act in the same play. The same court gave the same sentence overturned by a higher court. Why do we need higher courts then?” HDP deputy Ahmet Yıldırım told reporters outside the courthouse. “The decision was clear before the trial. There was no need for the lawyers to make a defense,” he said, adding the order was from “the higher offices.”

Yıldırım also relayed that the judge told one of Zeydan’s lawyers that he was “irritating” him. The judge then went on filing a criminal complaint against the lawyer. Yıldırım said the judge was threatening the defense and violated the universal right to a fair trial.

Police arrested Zeydan along with 12 other HDP deputies including the party’s Co-chairs Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ in home raids in various cities in November 2016 when Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration launched a massive crackdown on the Kurdish political movement.

Prison authorities initially kept Zeydan and Demirtaş in solitary cells for about a month, according to the HDP. A separate indictment demanded 20 years of imprisonment for Zeydan who joined several meetings, walks, and funerals of the militants of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in 2015 and 2016.

One of the charges brought against him was his attendance at an August 2015 funeral for a US-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighter who died battling the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.

Meanwhile, HDP co-chair Demirtaş is expected to appear before the court on Friday for the first time since his arrest. Demirtaş, who is currently in prison in the western province of Edirne, will stand trial on Jan. 12 for charges of “insulting the president,” with the comments he made towards Erdoğan on Dec. 24, 2015 at the İstanbul Atatürk Airport on his way home from Russia.

A previous ruling handed down by the Bakırköy 38th Criminal Court of First Instance in İstanbul had ruled for Demirtaş to attend the hearing in person on Jan. 12, 2018

Demirtaş has been imprisoned since Nov. 4, 2016 in the Edirne F-type prison on charges of terrorism. The first hearing for his case took place on Dec. 7, 2017, but again in his absence. The HDP co-chair refused to link to the court room via an audiovisual system, after the court board had cited security reasons for not bringing him to the court in person. As a result, he was absent from the hearing. The court ruled for Demirtaş to remain in prison until the next hearing for his trial on Feb. 14, 2018.

Turkey has stepped up its crackdown on Kurdish politicians since 2016. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, while hundreds of local Kurdish politicians have been arrested on terror charges.

Nine HDP deputies including Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ are still in prison. Moreover, a total of 27 HDP deputies were detained and released by Turkish government after Nov. 4, 2016 over alleged links to the outlawed PKK.

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