Dismissed Kurdish mayor given lengthy jail sentence on terrorism charges

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A Turkish court has handed down a prison sentence of seven years, six months to a former local co-mayor in southeastern Turkey who was earlier removed from office by the Turkish government on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

The last hearing in the trial of Filiz Buluttekin, former co-mayor of the Sur district of Diyarbakır province, was held at the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court on Monday. Buluttekin, who was not present at the hearing, was represented by her lawyer.

Buluttekin, who was removed from office by the Interior Ministry in December 2019, is among dozens of democratically elected pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) mayors who were replaced by government-appointed trustees.

The prosecutor sought Buluttekin’s conviction on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, namely the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), on the grounds that she attended 42 demonstrations between 2017 and 2019; that documents were seized in her house which included PKK propaganda; that she was a member of the Free Women Congress (KJA), which was closed down by a government decree in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016; and that a secret witness named “Firar” gave testimony accusing her of ties to the PKK.

Buluttekin’s lawyer Suzan Akipa denied the charges, saying her client was only involved in political activities in the region, had no links to the PKK and that the indictment was drafted in a way to legitimize her dismissal from office.

Despite the lawyer’s demand for Buluttekin’s acquittal, the Kurdish politician was given the lengthy jail sentence.

The PKK, which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s southeast since 1984, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US. The HDP is accused by the Turkish government of being the political arm of the PKK, a claim denied by the HDP. Hundreds of HDP politicians including the party’s former co-chairpersons are currently behind bars on terrorism charges.

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