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Jailed Turkish opposition leader strikes defiant tone in court

Figen Yuksekdag was charged on trumped-up terrorism charges and faces a life sentence in solitary confinement

TURKISH political opposition leader Figen Yuksekdag struck a defiant tone today in her seventh court hearing at an Ankara prison complex, where she faces an aggravated life sentence on trumped-up terrorism charges.

She opened by paying tribute to the family of former People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP Ibrahim Ayhan, who died unexpectedly earlier this week. A service was held in his memory in Urfa today, with hundreds of cars driving in a procession to his funeral.

Ms Yuksekdag faces life in prison in solitary confinement for speeches she has made, including at a celebration of the Kurdish new year in Diyarbakir.

Party officials say she is being singled out for additional punishment as she is a woman and a revolutionary Marxist, but her status as a Turk and not a Kurd represents a danger to the Turkish state.

It is the unity between Turks, Kurds and other minority groups that the country’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fears and it is this unity that is central to the programme of the HDP, which Ms Yuksekdag describes as “a unified movement of the oppressed in these lands.”

Prosecutors quizzed her in the Sincan prison court over an alleged call by the HDP for people to take to the streets in protest at government inaction during the siege of Kobane, where Isis jihadists surrounded the largely Kurdish town in northern Syria, massacring thousands.

Mr Erdogan has blamed both Mr Yuksekdag and former co-leader Selahattin Demirtas — also facing a lengthy prison sentence — for inciting terrorism and “calling people to their deaths” after more than 50 were killed in clashes with Turkish security services during the Kobane protests.

The former leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP said the charges being brought against her were “an insult to truth,” warning that “political power made a huge political mistake” and an emotional and humanitarian error during the siege of Kobane against the “conscience of the people.”

She dismissed charges that the Democratic Society Congress — the forerunner of the HDP — was a terrorist organisation as “ridiculous,” highlighting that ministers from the government had engaged with it during the peace process on the Kurdish question.
And she added that “we are hostages. We cannot expect a fair trial.

“We will endeavour all this to be the voice of history, to be the voice of truth. We will continue to be the resistance of all honest people of this country.”

International observers were blocked from entering the court again with armed police blocking their entrance to today’s hearing.
HDP officials suggested that Mr Erdogan had intervened personally to stop “foreigners” from attending the hearing as he does not wish the “sham trial” to be witnessed.

The hearing continued as the Star went to print.

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