ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A Turkish court sentenced a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish opposition party to 2-1/2 years in jail on terrorism charges, a party official said on Tuesday.
Mahmut Togrul, a member the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)representing the southeastern province of Gaziantep, was found guilty of spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) at two separate speeches in 2016.
His lawyers have said that Togrul’s remarks did not include any criminal elements and were within the framework of freedom of expression, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said.
Erdogan and his AK Party say the HDP has links to the PKK, a militant group that has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. The HDP denies any direct links to the PKK and says it is being unjustly targeted by the government.
The HDP has previously said that as many as 5,000 of its members had been detained, the majority of whom were targeted as part of a widespread crackdown following an abortive putsch in July 2016.
Sixteen members of the HDP, including Togrul, have been sentenced to prison, the official said, most on terrorism charges. Of those, 10 are still in prison, the official said.
Selahattin Demirtas, the former head of the HDP and one of Turkey’s best-known politicians, was also sentenced to jail last month, after nearly two years in prison.
Demirtas ran against Erdogan in the June presidential elections, carrying out his campaign from behind prison bars.
The HDP remains the second-largest opposition party in Turkey’s 600-member parliament, after the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP). Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and their nationalist MHPallies hold the majority.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Matthew Mpoke Bigg)