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Turkish Court Sentences Pro-Kurdish Lawmaker To Jail

Turkey has fought a lengthy Kurdish insurgency, and seeks to crack down on pro-Kurdish statements
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) -- A Turkish court has sentenced a pro-Kurdish member of parliament to 18 months in jail on charges she spread propaganda on behalf of Kurdish separatists.

Aysel Tugluk, a senior member of the Democratic Society Party (DTP), was convicted for saying at a rally in 2006 that members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) were "heroes to some" and refusing to call them terrorists, the court said.

Judges in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir ruled that Tugluk had violated antiterrorism laws, the court said.

The DTP is the first pro-Kurdish group to join the 550-seat Turkish parliament in more than a decade. It calls for a negotiated settlement of Turkey's 25-year conflict with the PKK, and faces a possible ban from parliament because of charges that it has links with militants.

Turkey blames the PKK for the deaths of some 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, in the conflict in the largely Kurdish southeast.

The United States and European Union have labeled the PKK a terrorist organization.

Tugluk, who has immunity as long as she is a member of parliament, faces at least a half-dozen other charges for separate comments.

Her lawyer Fethi Gumus said she would appeal the conviction.

If she loses the appeal, parliament could strip her of immunity and she would serve the prison sentence, he added.

Turkey's Kurdish population numbers around 12 million, out of Turkey's total population of 71 million. Most live in areas bordering communities of Kurds in Iraq, Iran, and Syria.