A Turkish court has ordered the pre-trial jailing of a pro-Kurdish member of parliament on a terrorism charge, Istanbul police and her lawyer said, while her party called the detention illegitimate and unethical.
Semra Guzel, a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), had her parliamentary immunity lifted in March after photos of her from several years ago with a militant from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) circulated on Turkish media. An arrest warrant was subsequently issued on a charge of membership of a terrorist organisation.
Guzel was detained in Istanbul on Friday and a court ruled late on Saturday to jail her pending trial, Istanbul police said, in line with a prosecutor’s request.
Veysi Eski, a lawyer for Guzel, said the charge against Guzel was unfounded and called it a continuation of what he said were “political genocide operations” against the HDP.
“A person visiting an acquaintance in the organisation (PKK) camp does not in and of itself constitute the crime of membership of (a terrorist) organisation,” Eski told Reuters.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu had announced the detention on Friday, saying Guzel was “busted”.
“Our member of parliament being detained in an unethical way; the government making this into propaganda material using inappropriate and ugly language shows the ruling party’s helplessness,” the HDP said in a statement before the court ruling.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party and its nationalist allies frequently accuse the HDP of being the PKK’s political wing. Thousands of HDP members have been tried in recent years over similar accusations. The party denies any links to terrorism.
When the photos first surfaced in January, Guzel said the person was her fiance and the photos were taken when she visited him during a peace process between the Turkish state and the PKK that broke down in 2015.
Guzel said the investigation against her, based on material found after the militant was killed in 2017, was not launched until she became a member of parliament a year later.
Critics say Turkish courts bend to Erdogan’s and his party’s will. The government denies this.
The PKK launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984. It is regarded as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.