This article was published by Ekurd Daily on 1 March 2017.

Prominent Kurdish politician Leyla Zana. Photo AP

DIYARBAKIR-AMED, Turkey’s Kurdish region,— Leyla Zana, a prominent Kurdish rights activist and member of Turkish parliament from the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP),  is facing several charges over links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK, under an indictment approved Wednesday, according to a judicial source, state-run Anadolu agency reported.

The source said the chief public prosecutor in the southeastern Kurdish province of Diyarbakir is seeking a 20-year prison sentence for the party’s lawmaker for eastern Agri province, Leyla Zana.

Zana was detained on Feb. 8 for failing to answer a summons linked to a counter-terrorism investigation, but was released on judicial restrictions later that day.

According to the Diyarbakir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Zana was accused of membership of an armed terrorist group, praising crime and criminal activity, and opposing the law on meetings and demonstrations.

Diyarbakir’s 5th High Penal Court approved the 156-page indictment demanding a sentence of up to 20 years. A date has not been set for the court to hear the case.

Zana has spent a decade in prison for links to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants after speaking Kurdish in parliament in 1991.

She was ultimately released in 2004 and once again became an MP after the June 2011 elections.

In June 2015, Zana won seats in parliament as a HDP party for the first time, depriving the ruling AK Party of a majority.

In May 2016, parliament voted to strip lawmakers of their legal immunity, paving the way for the HDP legislators’ arrests.

In November 2016, 12 Kurdish HDP lawmakers, including the two co-leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, were arrested on charges of links to the PKK which they deny. The party holds 59 out of the 550 seats in parliament.

Turkey’s government has accused the HDP of having links to the PKK,  a charge that the HDP denies.

The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 79-million population.

A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels and Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the PKK group in 1974, and has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide according to observers.

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