Turkish court sentences Kurdish former MP to 22 years in jail

Guven convicted on three separate terrorism charges after losing parliamentary immunity in June this year.

A supporter of pro-Kurdish HDP holds a picture of jailed lawmaker Leyla Guven, during a demonstration in solidarity with her, in Diyarbakir
Guven's legal team said it would appeal the verdict [File: Sertac Kayar/Reuters]

A Turkish court has sentenced a Kurdish former lawmaker, who shot to fame for a months-long hunger strike two years ago, 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 armed groups.

On Monday, Guven was given 14 years and three months in jail on a charge of membership of a “terrorist organisation” and an additional eight years for two separate charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda”.

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

The court ordered Guven’s immediate arrest.

Her legal team told AFP news agency it would appeal the verdict.

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

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 armed group an “invasion”.

In a tweet, Guven’s daughter Sabiha Temizkan called the Turkish government “the enemy of the law”.

Ocalan’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is blacklisted by Ankara and its Western allies as a terror group, has been waging an armed uprising 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 policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The opposition has accused Erdogan and his AK Party of seeking to quash dissent by jailing opposition members and critics since a 2016 failed coup.

The government has said its actions are justified by threats facing the country.

Source: News Agencies