Turkish court releases four HDP members, including former Kars mayor Ayhan Bilgen, in Kobane case
An Ankara court on June 15 ordered the release of four people in the Kobane trial, including former HDP Kars mayor Ayhan Bilgen and three former HDP executive committee members, after nine months in jail. The court imposed judicial control measures and a travel ban on the four people.
A Turkish court on June 15 ordered the release of four people in the Kobane case -- including Ayhan Bilgen, a former mayor from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) for the eastern province of Kars.
The Ankara 22nd Heavy Penal Court imposed judicial control measures and a travel ban on the four people.
Among the other three released defendants are Berfin Özgü Köse, Can Memiş and Cihan Erdal, who were serving on the HDP's executive committee during the 2014 Kobane protests.
A total of 108 politicians, including former HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ as well as other top level HDP politicians, have been charged with 37 cases of homicide.
The government accused the HDP of inciting violence for the Kobane protests that took place in October 2014.
As part of the investigation, in September 2020, authorities arrested several HDP officials. Bilgen, who was at the time serving as Kars mayor, later announced his resignation from his post and was replaced by a trustee.
During the hearing of the case on June 15, Erdal presented his defense to the court, asking the judges how they can justify his imprisonment based on just social media posts.
Erdal is being accused of inciting violence in connection with two social media posts he shared in 2014.
“In the Sept. 19, 2014 Facebook post, I had shared about a TV program on Demirtaş. I would like to ask you with sincerity. There is no element of crime in the content of this news article. How can a social media post that has the purpose of just informing [people] be placed in the case file as evidence asking for 37 life imprisonment?” Erdal was quoted as saying by Mezopotamya news agency.
Erdal was serving on the HDP's executive committee during the 2014 protests, but he relinquished his party deputies in 2015 and moved to Canada in 2017 where he started a Ph.D. Program at Carleton University.
Another social media post of Erdal for which he stands trial is about a man who was upset that his son, a member of Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), had been killed.
The court asked Erdal if he sees the YPG as a terrorist organization, to which lawyers said it is unconstitutional for such a question to be addressed to their client and warned the chief judge.
“Which conscience does allow an outcry of a father to be considered as a crime? Let's ask when the YPG was considered as a terror organization [by Ankara]. If we ask whether the YPG is a terror organization, then this is no longer a trial. If you want to hold a political discussion, then we would do it wherever you want after the hearing,” lawyer Arif Ali Cangı told the chief judge.
In an interim decision, the court ruled for the release of Bilgen, Köse, Memiş and Erdal, saying that their defenses had been taken and that the classification of the offense might have changed.
The hearing will resume on June 16.