Prosecutor seeks sentence for Kurdish women over sit-in they held in solidarity for jailed relatives

A Turkish court held its first hearing on Feb. 25 of a case against four Kurdish women who attempted to hold a sit-in front of the Gebze Prison in April 2019 to raise awareness about their jailed family members' hunger strikes. The hunger strike movement undertaken by several prisoners last year demanded the end of isolation against jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

Duvar English

A court in the western province of Kocaeli on Feb. 25 began trying four Kurdish women who attempted to hold a sit-in in front of the Gebze Prison in the western province of Kocaeli in April 2019, Mezopotamya news agency reported.

The Kurdish women had tried to raise awareness about the hunger strikes of their jailed family members with their sit-in protest. The hunger strike resistance undertaken by several prisoners last year demanded the end of isolation against jailed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan.

The movement was led by pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Leyla Güven. The HDP deputy began her hunger strike in prison after being arrested over critical remarks about Turkey's military operation in the predominantly Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria.

Güven's hunger strike resistance was later joined by thousands of prisoners in jails across Turkey, including the Gebze Prison.

Güven and thousands of prison inmates ended their hunger strike after the Turkish government eventually allowed Öcalan to meet his lawyers.

In an attempt to draw attention to the situation of their jailed relatives on hunger strike, four Kurdish women at the time attempted to stage a sit-in protest in front of the Gebze Prison and read a press statement. But, in response, the police battered them.

The four Kurdish women now face charges of “committing a crime on behalf of the organization [PKK]” and “violating the Law number 2911 on assemblies and demonstrations.”

The first hearing into the case took place on Feb. 25 at the Kocaeli 4th Heavy Penal Court.

All the four defendants in the case – Cemile Çiftçi, Türkiye Bozkurt, Fehime Ekmez and Yeter Seyhan – were present at the hearing, which was observed by representatives of several NGOs.

The defendants' lawyer Sinan Zincir told the court that his clients need to be acquitted without even their defenses being taken as their actions did not constitute as a crime.

The court said that the lawyer's acquittal demand will be taken into account after hearing the defendants' defenses.

The defendants said that they did not accept the charges and they did not even raise their voices against the police on the day of the incident, and it was in fact the police who “insulted” them.

The defendant Ekmez told the court that she was “dragged” by the police on the ground and was having a difficult time in doing certain movements since the police violence. She also said they did not chant slogans or took any action that was against the law, except holding a peaceful sit-in.

Afterwards, the prosecutor took the floor, presenting his legal opinion regarding the case and asking that the women receive a sentence.

The defendants' lawyer demanded extra time to prepare his defense for the submitted legal opinion.

The court postponed the hearing to May 21.