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Turkey gives 22-year jail term to Kurdish female politician

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A supporter of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) holds a picture of jailed lawmaker Leyla Guven during a demonstration in solidarity with her in Diyarbakir, Turkey, January 12, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

A court in Turkey has sentenced a former pro-Kurdish lawmaker who was stripped of her parliamentary status earlier this year to more than 22 years in jail on terror-related charges.

On Monday and at the court hearing in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Leyla Guven was given 14 years and three months on a charge of membership in a ‘terrorist organization,’ and an additional eight years for two separate charges of disseminating ‘terrorist propaganda.’

Guven, an opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy, was not present at the hearing and her whereabouts were not immediately clear.

The court ordered Guven’s immediate arrest. Her legal team said it would appeal.

The daughter, Sabiha Temizkan, said her mother was convicted for her work with the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Congress (DTK), a civil society group which remains under close scrutiny by the Turkish state. She called the Turkish government “the enemy of the law.”

The 56-year-old female politician shot to fame two years ago by spearheading a hunger strike by thousands of inmates who called for an end to jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan’s years of isolation.

Last year, Guven was freed under judicial control after serving a one-year term for labeling the Turkish military operation against Syrian Kurdish militant groups an ‘invasion.’  

“I uttered a scream in the dark... I started by daring to die for this cause,” media outlets then quoted Guven as saying.

The Turkish government-backed militants were deployed to northeastern Syria in October 2019, when the Turkish military launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion in a declared attempt to push militants of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) away from border areas. Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). 

In recent years, Ankara has jailed dozens of mayors and other officials from the HDP, which is the third largest party in the Turkish parliament. 

Guven had been accused of having links to the PKK.

Other members of the HDP, including its co-leaders, face similar charges. They deny the charges, saying they are victims of a crackdown by the government which was launched after a failed coup less than two years ago.

Thousands of people, including a large number Kurds, have been jailed over alleged links to the July 15, 2016 coup or other terrorism-related charges.

Rights advocates have criticized Ankara for suing people over expressing opinions, describing it as a means of aggressive muzzling of dissent in Turkey.

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