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Turkish prosecutor demands lengthy sentences for pro-Kurdish leaders

HDP leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag face combined sentence of more than 200 years according to indictment
Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of Turkey's Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is escorted by Turkish gendarmerie as he arrives to the hospital for medical check on 15 December 2016, in northwestern Edirne province where he is imprisoned since early November (AFP)

Two jailed pro-Kurdish political leaders are facing jail sentences of 142 and 83 years respectively for alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), according to the indictment presented by the Turkish state prosecutor.

He presented the indictment of HDP leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag to Turkey’s High Court on Tuesday, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

Demirtas has been accused of being a "terrorist organisation manager,” "making propaganda for a terrorist organisation,” “opposing the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations" and "publicly inciting hatred and hostility”.

The prosecutor said Demirtas should serve a sentence of 43 to 142 years and co-leader Yuksekdag 30 to 83 years in prison.

The EU’s Turkey rapporteur called the indictment of the two leaders, who were arrested in November on terrorism-related charges, “outrageous”.

Immunity for members of parliament was lifted in Turkey in May after a constitutional amendment was approved by parliament, in a move widely seen as being aimed at the HDP, which the government accuses of being linked to the outlawed PKK militant group.

Demirtas and 12 other HDP parliamentarians arrested in November deny being leaders or members of the PKK. “I am not a manager, member, spokesperson, or a sympathiser of PKK; I’m the co-chair of HDP,” Demirtas said in his court testimony on 6 January.

"Our co-chairs and deputies are in prison now under arbitrary decisions made by judges under the pressure of the government," HDP president Ertugrul Kurkcu told Middle East Eye this week. "Their parliamentary immunity was lifted in an unconstitutional way and now we are going to campaign for our position in this country."

But the party president warned that the mass arrest of members made political work extremely difficult. "Is there a guarantee that other deputies are not going to be imprisoned? Five thousand members and branch office leaders are imprisoned since one year. Under those conditions, who can say the HDP can explain its positions to the voters?"