Turkish police detain pro-Kurdish HDP candidate over ‘terror propaganda’

Sidar Zana Bilir, a Kurdish politician who has applied to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to run in the June 24 general election from the party’s ranks, was detained by Turkish police on Wednesday on charges of “spreading terror propaganda.”

According to a report by online news outlet Artı Gerçek, Bilir’s house in Batman province was raided by police early on Wednesday, and she was taken to the Batman Police Station for questioning.

The fifth hearing in the trial of former HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ was held in Ankara on Thursday. The authorities refused to allow the Swedish ambassador and an international delegation there to observe the trial into the courtroom.

Yüksekdağ stated in court that “at a moment in which the country is going through a critical period, we are prevented from carrying out our duty. It is a crime against our people and voters to prevent us from doing our duty. This crime belongs to the government, which is interfering with the judiciary.”

“Unfortunately, this government, which accused us of disrupting the public order, is the one that caused the greatest damage to public order by breaking the normal structure of society,” Yüksekdağ said and added: “They detained us so as to leave us outside politics. They won’t ever succeed. Today, our friend Selahattin Demirtaş is at the center of the political scene. For a year and a half the government has tried to eliminate us. Yet today, Demirtaş is a candidate for the presidency of the republic. And tomorrow he may well be president.”

“How can you force an election in these conditions? Up to today, 11 MPs have been stripped of their status. Despite this they are still saying to the people, go and vote, chose your candidate, but of course ‘if I don’t like them I could strip them of their status.’

“Of the six presidential candidates only Demirtaş is not free to do his election campaigning. The detention of Demirtaş is a shame in the history of this country. I never asked to be free. I won’t ask it today. But I do ask for Selahattin Demirtaş to be freed. We will show our freedom in the election squares. Despite the more than 5,000 prisoners, the HDP will still have a strong presence on June 24.”

Meanwhile, the German Embassy in Ankara said on Thursday that foreign diplomats have not been allowed to attend a public hearing of former HDP co-chair Yüksekdağ, expressing concerns over the state of the rule of law in Turkey.

“Diplomats from Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and the EU delegation have been trying in vain to be admitted to the public hearing against former HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ in Sincan. In clear breach of Turkish law and the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, foreign diplomats are once again denied access to a public hearing,” read a written statement issued by the German embassy on Thursday.

“The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice have been made aware of the situation, but refused to act on the matter. This situation is unacceptable and bodes ill for the current state of the rule of law in this country,” the statement added.

A statement released by the HDP explained that the foreign diplomats were not allowed to follow the hearing on the grounds that they were not accredited as diplomats in Turkey.

The HDP is the second-largest opposition party in the Turkish Parliament. 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 nine 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 Kurdistan Workers Party (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. (SCF with turkeypurge.com)

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