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HomeWorld HeadlinesTurkey sentences pro-Kurdish politicians to lengthy prison terms over deadly 2014 riots

Turkey sentences pro-Kurdish politicians to lengthy prison terms over deadly 2014 riots

ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish court on Thursday sentenced dozens pro-Kurdish politicians to between nine and 30 years in prison over deadly riots in 2014 by Kurds who were angered by what they perceived to be government inaction against Islamic State group militants who had besieged the Syrian border town of Kobani.

The three days of clashes that broke out in October 2014 resulted in 37 deaths and left hundreds of others — police and civilians — injured. The protests were called by leaders of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, who were frustrated by what they considered to be Turkish support for IS militants.

A total of 108 people were put on trial charged with various crimes, including the killings of the 37 victims and crimes against the integrity of the state. The defendants include HDP’s jailed former leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, who were accused of organizing the protests and of inciting violence.

Critics decried the trial as being politically-motivated and part of a wider government crackdown on the pro-Kurdish party.

The court in Ankara convicted Yuksekdag of attempts against the unity of the state, of inciting criminal acts and of engaging in acts of violence and sentenced her to 30 years in prison, state broadcaster TRT reported.

Demirtas, who has run for president twice, received a total of 28 years and six months in prison.

At least 10 other defendants were acquitted of charges leveled against them.

The politicians are expected to appeal the verdicts.

The hearing took place in a tense atmosphere with lawyers banging on desks and leaving the courtroom to protest the verdicts, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.

The government accused the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is considered a terror organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union. The group has led an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people.

Government officials accused the HDP leaders of taking instructions from the PKK to stage the riots.

The government has frequently cracked down on the pro-Kurdish political movement, by stripping legislators of their parliamentary seats and removing elected mayors from office. Several HDP lawmakers have been jailed alongside Demirtas and Yuksekdag, on terror-related charges.

The party has since changed its name to the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party, or DEM, and is the third-largest grouping in Turkey’s parliament.

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