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Turkey Jailed former HDP co-chair refuses to attend court hearing

Figen Yuksekdag says she is being denied the right to a fair trial

THE will of the people cannot be jailed, lawyers argued at the trial of Turkish Marxist revolutionary Figen Yuksekdag, former co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP),  in Ankara today.

Ms Yuksekdag refused to attend the court hearing at the Sincan prison complex, claiming she is being denied the right to a fair trial, with access to her case file restricted to just one or two hours a week.

It was the first hearing since the recent presidential and parliamentary elections which saw President Recep Tayyip Erdogan take 53 per cent of the vote.

He vowed tough action against “terrorists” in his victory speech, raising fears of increased attacks and oppressive measures against Turkey’s 20 million Kurds.

Earlier this week, Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu caused outrage when he said there was “no such party as the HDP,” branding the legal organisation as terrorists.

This followed an alleged death threat made to the party’s co-chair Pervin Buldan in a telephone call after the elections in which he reportedly told her: “You have no right to live.”

Ms Yuksekdag faces aggravated life in prison, meaning she could spend her life in solitary confinement, on trumped-up charges of terrorism.

The revolutionary has been in jail since the mass arrests of HDP politicians in November 2016. She has already served a year in prison for “disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organisation.”

Ms Yuksekdag received a 10-month sentence in 2016 for speaking at the 2012 funeral of Yasemin Ciftci, a member of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) which is listed as a terrorist organisation.

Despite this she remains defiant, saying: “They demand 100 years! If I had more lifetimes, I’d still do the same things. We have a cause of democracy and peace worthy of a century.”

Her lawyer Ruken Gulagaci said the restricted access to case files “makes it hard for the client to defend herself, and it makes it hard for us to prepare a defence. The client is still in remand. My client has been in prison for 20 months.”

The judge dismissed the appeal for Ms Yuksekdag to be released and rescheduled the hearing for September 24.

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