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Former HDP co-leader vows to ‘defend to the end’ Kurds' right to self-government

Figen Yuksekdag faces between 30 and 83 years in jail if found guilty of ‘spreading terrorist propaganda’

FORMER Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-leader Figen Yuksekdag struck a defiant tone in an Ankara court yesterday as she vowed to “defend to the end” the right for Kurdish self-government in Turkey.

The Marxist politician appeared via SEGBIS video link at the hearing in Ankara’s Sincan prison complex where she gave her defence in her 12th trial on charges of “spreading terrorist propaganda” and management of a terrorist organisation.

Ms Yuksekdag faces between 30 and 83 years in jail but prosecutors are pressing for a sentence of aggravated life in prison — meaning she would be held in isolation and denied visitors.

She was detained in November 2016 when Turkish authorities moved against HDP parliamentarians in a series of night raids.

The charges relate to her work with the Democratic Society Congress — a platform of Kurdish associations and movements that campaigns for democratic self-government.

She is also being prosecuted for attending the funerals of Mehmet and Orhan Tunc — deemed a terrorist act by the Turkish state.

They died when Turkish security services massacred 178 men, women and children by pouring petrol into three basements in the largely Kurdish city of Cizre and setting them on fire to burn the occupants alive.

Ms Yuksekdag warned that attending a funeral in Turkey is now considered a crime.

“It has become a problem to attend the funeral of a politician. The state sees it as a political act. But it is a humanitarian action.”

In a searing political defence she said: “Prosecutors who prepare the indictment may not find my ideas correct but they cannot establish political domination over me.

“We are paying the price of defending the truth. We will stand straight until we die but those who judge us will die crawling.”

She accused the Turkish government of “making an alliance with Isis” to oppose the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units who led the fight against jihadists in northern Syria as the main constituent of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

“Now they are co-operating with al-Qaida, al-Nusra and Isis in Idlib” — referring to the Syrian province where Turkish forces are protecting the last remaining jihadist stronghold in the country.

“The Syrian war concerns the entire Middle East,” she said. “The policy that started with Iraq continues with Syria.”

Ms Yuksekdag warned the court: “The Kurdish problem, the problem of democracy, won’t be resolved through these trials.

“As a socialist, I will defend to the end the demand of Kurds from Turkey for self-government.”

The trial continues.

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