Turkish court sentences Kurdish ex-MP to 22 years in jail

Turkish court sentences Kurdish ex-MP to 22 years in jail
Leyla Guven, 56, was given a 22 year sentence on charges of joining "a terror group" and "disseminating terror propaganda".
3 min read
21 December, 2020
The 56-year-old gained international attention by launching a 200-day hunger strike in 2018 [Getty]

A Turkish court on Monday sentenced a prominent Kurdish former lawmaker who went on a months-long hunger strike to more than 22 years in jail on terror-related charges.

Leyla Guven, an opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy who was stripped of her parliamentary immunity in June, was convicted of membership of a terror group and disseminating terror propaganda for outlawed Kurdish militants, an AFP reporter said.

The 56-year-old gained international attention by launching a 200-day hunger strike in 2018 in a bid to end jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan's isolation by securing him access to his family and lawyers.

Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is blacklisted by Ankara and its Western allies as a terror group, has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that has killed tens of thousands.

The government has jailed dozens of mayors and other HDP officials in the past year over the party's suspected links to the PKK, which it strongly denies.

The crackdown has alarmed global human rights groups and further strained Turkey's uneasy relations with the European Union, which is increasingly concerned by the nationalist policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Guven was not present at Monday's court hearing in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir, and her whereabouts were not immediately clear.

Her legal team told AFP it would appeal the verdict. The court ordered Guven's immediate arrest.

- 'Enemy of the law'-
Ocalan has been serving a life sentence for treason on a prison island off Istanbul since his 1999 capture in Kenya by the Turkish MIT intelligence service.

Despite his almost complete isolation, he remains a dominant, almost legendary figure of the Kurdish insurgency and the movement generally in Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

In May last year, Ocalan called for an end to hunger strikes by thousands of jailed supporters in Turkey, who were surviving by drinking only salty and sugary water.

Ocalan was allowed to meet his brother Mehmet for the first time in more than two years on January 12 last year, but details of the meeting have not been made public.

In May last year, he was granted permission to see his lawyers for the first time in eight years.

Guven was in custody on separate charges when she launched her hunger strike.

She was freed under judicial control last year after serving a one-year term for labelling the Turkish military operation against a Syrian Kurdish militia an "invasion".

Read also: Turkey jails US consulate staffer for 'aiding terror group'

"I uttered a scream in the dark... I started by daring to die for this cause," Guven told AFP in an interview at her home last year when she was on the hunger strike.

Guven's daughter Sabiha Temizkan said her mother was convicted for her work with the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Congress (DTK), a civil society group which has not been banned by the Turkish state but remains under close scrutiny.

In a tweet, Temizkan called the Turkish government "the enemy of the law".

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