Turkish court sentences a Kurdish leader for 42 years in prison

Turkish court sentences a Kurdish leader for 42 years in prison

Shafaq News/ A Turkish court on Thursday handed a former leader of the Kurdish HDP party to 42 years in prison for his alleged role in the 2014 protests that erupted as ISIS group overran the Syrian town of Kobane.

Already jailed since 2016, Selahattin Demirtas, 51, a two-time election rival to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was convicted for dozens of crimes including undermining state unity and the country's integrity.

The court in Sincan on the outskirts of the capital Ankara sentenced HDP's former co-chair Figen Yuksekdag to 30 years and three months, private broadcaster NTV and rights group MLSA reported.

The case against former members of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) -- including Demirtas and Yuksekdag -- stems from one of the darker episodes of the more than decade-long Syria war.

Thirty-seven people died in violent demonstrations against the Turkish army's inaction in the face of an ISIS offensive against the largely Kurdish northern Syrian town.

The fighting was visible from the Turkish side of the border and many in the country's Kurdish community viewed the army as complicit in the humanitarian disaster that followed.

Turkey views the HDP as the political front of outlawed Kurdish militants who have been waging an insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.

The HDP, which faces a closure case, was replaced by DEM Party in parliament.

Prosecutors accused the 108 defendants of "attacking the integrity of the state" and crimes including looting and murder.

They sought an aggravated life sentence for 36 suspects including Demirtas on charges of attacking state unity and the country's integrity.

The HDP blamed Turkish police for causing the deaths.

In a testimony in 2023, Demirtas slammed the case as a "revenge" trial.

"There's no single evidence about me. This is a case of political revenge, we were not legally arrested, we are all political hostages," he said.

Demirtas has been in jail in the western city of Edirne since 2016 facing multiple trials on terror-related charges that Western governments view as part of Erdogan's crackdown on political dissent.

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