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Prime suspect in murder of HDP staffer gets aggravated life sentence

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A Turkish court on Tuesday handed down an aggravated life sentence and an additional nine years to the prime suspect in the murder of a political party employee in western Turkey last year, the BBC Turkish service reported.

Deniz Poyraz, 38, who worked in the İzmir office of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was killed in an attack in June 2021.

Slain HDP employee Deniz Poyraz

In the final hearing of the trial, Onur Gencer, the then-27-year-old assailant who admitted to killing Poyraz, was given an aggravated life sentence on charges of premeditated murder and an additional nine years on charges of violating the privacy of a workplace, property damage and violating the law on the use of firearms.

Gencer said in his defense that he had no regrets about the murder.

The trial took place at the İzmir 6th High Criminal Court, where extensive security measures were taken. A group of lawyers who wanted to observe the trial but were denied access to the courtroom staged a protest outside the courthouse.

Opposition lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was taken out of the courtroom when he insisted on entering with his mobile phone, which was banned.

HDP Co-chairperson Mithat Sancar and Erinç Sağkan, head of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB), were also in front of the courthouse on Tuesday demanding justice for Poyraz.

On Monday Sağkan and other bar association presidents held a “Justice Vigil” in front of the courthouse in İzmir for Poyraz.

The attack on Poyraz came at a time of increased pressure on the HDP, which is accused of links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, as it faces a closure case on terrorism charges, and when hundreds of its politicians including two former co-chairs are behind bars on politically motivated charges.

It has emerged that Gencer had previously posted photos on social media making an ultranationalist hand gesture associated with the Grey Wolves, a far-right group with close ties to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as well as their election partner, the MHP, have long portrayed the HDP as the political front of the PKK. The party denies links to the PKK and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish issue and is only coming under attack because of its strong opposition to Erdoğan’s 20-year rule.

The Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.

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