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Former HDP MP Leyla Guven sentenced to 22 years in Turkish prison

FORMER Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Leyla Guven was sentenced to 22 years and three months in prison today.

She was not present in court as the judge issued a warrant for her arrest after she was sentenced at Diyarbakir’s 9th high criminal court on 18 separate charges.

Ms Guven has been described “as the embodiment of Kurdish women and the face of the resistance” in Turkey for her resolute stance against the ruling government of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

She came to international prominence by leading a hunger-strike campaign in Turkish prisons starting in November 2018 that was joined by at least 7,000 prisoners in protest at the isolation of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.

It was called off at Mr Ocalan’s request in May 2019 after he was granted access to his lawyers for the first time in nearly nine years.

When Turkey’s parliament removed her immunity from prosecution in June, she was briefly jailed but was released after an international campaign demanded her freedom.

Prosecutors demanded that she be punished for establishing and managing an illegal organisation, being a member of an illegal organisation, provoking the public to join illegal meetings and demonstrations, unarmed participation in illegal marches and not disbanding illegal marches when ordered to do so.

The charges relate to her role as co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an organisation that campaigns for autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish population and a peaceful resolution to its so-called Kurdish question.

Despite it being invited to government talks on the development of a new Turkish constitution, the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) now brands the DTK a terrorist organisation linked to the PKK.

Prosecutors also demanded that she be charged with “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation” regarding a statement allegedly reflecting PKK policy that Ms Guven made during a 2016 protest against Turkish military operations in Lice.

They insisted that the Kurdish politician is part of the hierarchical structure of the PKK and “received orders and instructions” from senior figures in the organisation.

In a statement HDP Amed (Diyarbakir) said: “Leyla Guven is the will of the people. Her resistance and struggle have been an inspiration to the people of the world.”

Thousands of Kurds languish behind bars, including many elected politicians, as oppression against the Kurdish people continues to intensify.

Sebahat Tuncel, a former co-chair of the Democratic Regions Party — the HDP’s municipal sister party — recently described Turkish jails as “internment camps for Kurds.”

Some 16,000 HDP activists have been detained since 2015 and 6,000 of them jailed, along with 200 elected officials and seven MPs, including the party’s former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.

More than 50 elected mayors of the 65 municipalities won by the HDP in last year’s local elections have been dismissed and replaced by government-appointed “trustees.”

Hundreds are involved in a new round of rolling hunger strikes over the continued isolation of Mr Ocalan and Turkey’s continued rights violations against Kurds.

Speaking to the Morning Star earlier this year in an exclusive interview, Ms Guven stressed the importance of international solidarity, saying that without it, they wouldn’t be able to breathe.

To get involved in the campaign in solidarity with the HDP and Ms Guven, see the Peace in Kurdistan and Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign websites.

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