A Turkish court has jailed a local leader of the main pro-Kurdish party and seven others for aiding the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the latest in a rash of court cases against the party.
The head of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) in the eastern province of Tunceli, Hýdýr Aytaç, was sentenced to three years and nine months in jail for aiding and providing shelter to the PKK.
After Thursday evening's verdict in the southeastern town of Malatya, Aytaç told reporters he would appeal. Seven others, including party members, received the same sentence. Salih Karaaslan, the DTP regional chairman in Ankara, and Ýsmet Aras from the Human Rights Association (IHD) remained in custody over two protests in February and March in which participants backed separatist Kurds, reported the Anatolia news agency. The court in Ankara ordered the arrest of two other suspects, who were not identified.
DTP members have increasingly become the target of judicial action, mainly on charges of backing the outlawed PKK, which has waged a campaign of violence in Turkey's mostly Kurdish Southeast for more than 20 years and is listed as a terrorist group by Ankara, the US and the EU.
Meanwhile also in Turkey's Southeast, the Interior Ministry gave permission to start an investigation into Osman Baydemir, the mayor of the region's largest city, Diyarbakýr, after he used the Kurdish language in postcards he sent at New Year's and Ramadan.
In other legal action against the DTP, a court in Diyarbakir has ordered the release of the city's DTP chairman at the first hearing of his trial on charges of sedition. Hilmi Aydoðdu was arrested on Feb. 23 on charges of "inciting hatred" in comments about the ethnically volatile, oil-rich city of Kirkuk in neighboring northern Iraq. He was arrested after the media quoted him as saying that Turkey's Kurds would "consider a Turkish attack on Kirkuk as an attack on Diyarbakir."
The court agreed to his request to remain free during the trial and set the next hearing for July 26. About 300 supporters greeted Aydoðdu with applause as he emerged from the courthouse. Ankara has issued strongly worded warnings over the future of Kirkuk, which the Iraqi Kurds want to incorporate into their autonomous region, even though the city is also home to Arabs and Turkish-backed Turkmens. Aydoðdu's remarks provoked harsh reactions here at a time when Iraqi Kurds are accused of supporting the PKK, whose militants have long taken refuge in the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. Ankara fears that Iraqi Kurds may break away from Baghdad and embolden PKK violence in Turkey, which has already resulted in more than 37,000 deaths.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16