04/12/2017, 10.06
TURKEY
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Kurdish leader jailed for a year. Suspicious deaths in Turkish prisons

The court sentenced HDP co-leader, Figen Yüksekdağ, for crimes related to terrorism. Now she can no longer be elected to a political party. The prosecutor asks for life imprisonment for 30 journalists and employees of the Zaman publishing group, which publishes the main opposition newspaper. At least 28 people have died in jail, from suspected torture.

 

Istanbul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A Turkish court sentenced the co-leader of the main parliamentary opposition movement, the pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples' Party (HDP), to one year in prison. Figen Yüksekdağ (pictured) has been indicted for crimes related to "terrorism". Judicial sources behind anonymity, report that the political leader is believed to have "sponsored propaganda activities for a terrorist organization".

Yuksekdag also lost her parliamentary seat, after the court authorized the trial on September 22.

Now, as envisaged by the current Turkish Constitution, following the conviction she can no longer be elected within a political party.

Figen Yüksekdağ was elected as an MP in November 2015 in the electoral district of the eastern province of Van. The Kurdish leader was arrested in November last year, along with 13 other MPs HDP on terrorism-related charges. Ten of them, including Selahattin Demirtas the co-leader of the Kurdish movement are still in prison awaiting trial. They can no longer enjoy immunity, which was canceled by a vote in March 2016

Since July 2016, Turkish authorities have arrested more than 45,000 people, including teachers, soldiers, intellectuals, opposition politicians, businessmen, journalists, activists and ordinary citizens. More than 135,000 public servants have been either suspended or dismissed.

The crackdown is aimed at Kurds, and sympathisers (real or assumed) of the movement led by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, US.

According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other government leaders Gülen was behind the coup in Turkey that killed 270 people, wounding thousands. Analysts and experts note that the escalation of arrests is linked to the upcoming referendum on constitutional reform.

President Erdoğan has strongly pushed for the proposed changes to enhance his powers and extend his time in office beyond 2019, when his current mandate ends.

On the eve of the referendum the chief Istanbul prosecutor has once again demanded a life sentence for 30 journalists and former employees of the Zaman media group, accused of "participation in a terrorist organization". The group is guilty of publishing the main newspaper linked to the opposition, before the police and the authorities closed it down.

In the indictment the prosecutor accused the group of having used Zaman "as a weapon" exceeding "the limits of freedom of opinion and press," undermining social peace and justifying the coup.

Finally, activists and international human rights organizations denounce at least 28 people have been killed in Turkish prisons since the beginning of the purges in July. These include police officers, judges, teachers who were found dead in their cells. These deaths cast a shadow on the fate of thousands of civilians, in precarious conditions inside the country's prisons. Relatives of the victims reject the hypothesis of death by suicide, the official version given by the authorities to justify the deaths. According to rumors some of these deaths would occur as a result of torture.

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