Turkey: life term for Kurdish opposition leader?

Turkish prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for Figen Yüksekda─č, co-chair of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), on charges of terrorism for her alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). A court accepted an indictment prepared by the Van province Chief Public Prosecutor's office calling for a life sentence. Yüksekda─č has been charged with disrupting the unity of the state, supporting "self-rule" in Van, and spreading terrorist propaganda. Yüksekda─č and Selahattin Demirta┼č, co-leaders of the mostly Kurdish-led HDP, were arrested in early November. The Turkish parliament voted earlier in the year to lift parliamentary immunity from a select group of MPs who the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan allege have ties with the banned PKK.

The charges against Yüksekda─č stem from speeches she made in 2015 and 2016. She is being held at the high-security Kandira Prison in Izmit. According to a statement released by HDP at the start of this year, 8,711 members and supporters of their party have been detained and 2,705 have been arrested since July 2015, when the peace process between Ankara and the PKK fell apart and the conflict renewed.

The HDP hs charges that the AKP is cracking down on the party to eliminate its opposition to constitutional amendments that would invest more power in President Erdogan's hands. The Turkish parliament is in the midst of voting on the constitutional amendments, passing the first five articles that enable Erdogan to take back leadership of the AKP, appoint and dismiss ministers, and remain president through to 2029.

The votes have not proceeded without problems, however. The parliament dissolved into a brawl Jan. 11, with punches thrown between AKP and opposition CHP members. The CHP, like HDP, fears the amendments place too much power in the president and may lead to authoritarianism. The 18-article bill needs the support of a minimum of 330 votes to go to a referendum on the constitutional amendments, which is expected to be held in the spring. (Rudaw, Jan. 12)

See our last post on the crackdown in Turkey.