DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) – A Turkish court ordered the release on Friday of a Kurdish lawmaker jailed last year for criticising Ankara’s military operation in Syria and on hunger strike for nearly three months.
Though expected to walk free later on Friday, Leyla Guven still faces trial and up to 31 years’ jail over charges of terrorism leadership and propaganda for her opposition to Turkey’s incursion into northwest Syria’s Afrin region.
The judge in the largely Kurdish city of Diyarbakir decided to release Guven given she had already been in custody for a year. Her health has deteriorated during a 79-day hunger strike to protest against the prison isolation of Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, those close to her say.
Guven was among some 600 people detained over social media posts and protests criticising Turkey’s operation last year into Afrin, pushing out the U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG, viewed by Ankara as a terrorist group.
Last June, she was elected as a member of parliament for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) while in detention.
Guven has been consuming water with sugar and salt and vitamin supplements. The HDP says 250 inmates in various jails and politicians have joined the hunger strike.
Guven is also co-leader of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an umbrella group of civil society organisations based in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
Ankara has accused both the HDP and DTK of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, founded by Ocalan. They deny ties to the PKK, which has waged an armed insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union. Turkey captured PKK leader Ocalan in 1999 and jailed him on an island south of Istanbul.
Thousands of people linked to the HDP, including its leaders, have been arrested in a crackdown in recent years following the breakdown of a peace process with the PKK.
(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)