On Thursday, in spite of a complete lack of evidence or witness testimony, Kurdish political activist Mahmut Kardaş was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Turkish court in Diyarbakir (Amed), which cited his political past as the sole basis for the sentence. Kardaş, born in 1965 in Diyarbakır, has a history of political activism and has spent over half of his adult life as a political prisoner.
Kardaş’s extended family has also faced persecution. When he was in previously prison, many of his relatives were also incarcerated. His brother Mehmet Ali Kardaş was killed in Diyarbakır in 2007, and no one was arrested for the murder. Later, the homes of the family and relatives were fired on and set alight. During this attack a 15-year-old relative was also killed. Again, no arrests were made.
Kardaş’s health has deteriorated through the years as a result of torture and other forms of mistreatment, and hunger strikes, during his time in various prisons. Despite his health issues, he was arrested again on the basis of an anonymous tip, and sent to Diyarbakır Prison in 2022.
The court case against Kardaş began in a Diyarbakır court soon after his arrest. His previous records and convictions for organisation membership were included in the court documents, initiating a chain of human rights violations. Kardaş has now started a death fast in prison, demanding a fair trial and examination of evidence.
Meral Şimşek, a Kurdish writer and Kardaş’s niece, said, “We have faced unceasing state oppression for many years. Some of us have lost their lives, some suffer permanent physical harm, and some, like me, have had to leave the country”. Şimşek also called on human rights organisations, the media, politicians and the public to support her uncle, who has laid down his body to die in a fast for justice.