Turkish prosecutor seeks 15 years for co-leader of pro-Kurdish party

A Turkish prosecutor is seeking 15 years in prison for the co-leader of the main pro-Kurdish party for her remarks in support of US-backed Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State, a party official confirmed Friday.

Figen Yuksekdag of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) faces charges of spreading terrorist propaganda for comments last year in which she praised the People's Protection Units (YPG), a primarily Kurdish group which continues to advance against Islamic State in Syria, backed by US airstrikes.

The move against Yuksekdag comes just after prosecutors said they were seeking five years in jail for Selahattin Demirtas, the other co-chair of the HDP, also on allegations of spreading terrorist propaganda.

Demirtas is in trouble for a speech made in 2013 supporting the peace process, then under way, between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the state. The peace process collapsed last year and conflict resumed.

Turkey has a history of jailing pro-Kurdish politicians and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regularly makes known his disdain for the HDP, often accusing it of being a wing of the banned PKK.

In May, the president successfully pushed parliament to lift immunity for 54 of the party's 59 lawmakers, clearing the way for prosecutions. Other parties were also affected by the immunity bill.

The HDP, the third largest bloc in parliament, denies it is an organ of the PKK. The party has called for both the PKK and the government to refrain from further violence and return to talks.

Three other party members face between three and five years in prison, according to the new indictment against Yuksekdag prepared by a prosecutor in Sanliurfa province, CNN Turk reported. The prosecutor's move against Demirtas also included charges for another top party official.

A judge must now decide on whether to proceed, the HDP official told dpa.

Since the violent battles between the PKK and the state's security forces resumed in July 2015, hundreds have died on both sides and hundreds of civilians have been killed.

Much of the violence is focused on the largely Kurdish south-east, where about half of a million people have been displaced. The HDP has won a majority in many of the south-eastern provinces in the most recent elections.

The long running 30-year war between the PKK and Turkey has left more than 40,000 people dead.

The Syrian YPG, which emerged during that country's civil war, is seen as having strong ties to the PKK.

Despite the US classification of the PKK as a terrorist organization, Washington collaborates in Syria with the secular YPG. The most effective fighting force against Islamic State, the YPG has seized large swaths of territory from the extremist group in the past year.

Turkey has been irked by the YPG’s advances, fearing it will stoke Kurdish nationalist sentiments at home. Kurds in both countries have long complained of systemic discrimination, including periods when their language was banned.

Last update: Fri, 19/08/2016 - 12:21

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