A court in southern Turkish province of Adana is seeking up to 15 years in prison for Kurdish politician Aysel Tuğluk, a former MP who was imprisoned over terrorism charges and released from prison after she was diagnosed with dementia. The first hearing for the case will be held on Thursday, all-female agency Jin News reported.
According to Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD) Co-chair Şükran Öztürk, the new charges stem from a witness, who testified that Tuğluk visited him in the hospital after he was handed over to Turkish soldiers by the Syrian group People’s Defence Units (YPG) with injuries.
“The witness said he learned Tuğluk’s name from the police, that they did not know each other,” Öztürk said. “The witness did not accuse Tuğluk of any action connected to membership in a terrorist organisation.”
“We believe the soldiers whose custody the witness was in should also testify,” she continued. “Who are these soldiers? Did they help the man as well? These questions arise from the indictment but are left unanswered.”
The indictment adds new accusations to charges Tuğluk faced back in 2018, Öztürk said. “How is that helpful, how it will contribute to a 2018 case remains to be explained.”
Tuğluk “was put in the crosshairs of the authoritarian regime that bases its politics on animosity against Kurds”, her colleague and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Serpil Kemalbay told Jin News.
Tuğluk, a human rights lawyer by profession, has “always been involved with democratic politics, but she was accused of leading a terrorist organisation”, Kemalbay added. She was originally arrested in 2016 over her involvement with the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), which Turkey considers to be affiliated with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
While in prison, Tuğluk received another order for her arrest over street protests against the Islamic State on the 6-8 October 2014, when several dozen people lost their lives in clashes. Most of the deceased were HDP supporters, but courts have put the blame on the HDP and charged party officials including former co-chairs of incitement over them.
“These things happen as a continuation of the isolation policies in prisons, political vengeance operations, and policies of war,” Kemalbay said. “Clearly there are some who feel discomfort over her release, and are trying to get her back in prison with these new charges. We will fight against these political rulings.”
Tuğluk was diagnosed with dementia in 2021, but was not released from prison until October 2022 due to the Forensic Science Institute (ATK) refusing to issue a report advising that. As a result, her condition advanced and the first woman co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) was left unable to answer simple questions during hearings last year.
“The ATK’s decisions were political, not legal or medical,” Kemalbay said.
The treatment Tuğluk was subjected to was an example of Turkey’s “policies of oppression, annihilation and denial against Kurdish women”, feminist Didar Gül from the Sick Prisoners Solidarity Platform told Jin News.