The imprisoned Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP and co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), Leyla Güven, and eight other prison inmates in Turkey have been given a one-month communications ban by the Prison Disciplinary Board in Elazig (Elezîz) E-type Prison on 20 August for dancing and singing in an “unidentified language” (Kurdish) in a prison ward.
Lawyers lodged an appeal against the decision with the Elazig Court for Execution of Sentences, which was rejected on 15 September.
The punishment was issued on the grounds of them singing an “unnecessary anthem,” the ruling said.
“The important thing is not whether the slogan and anthem are necessary, but whether the security, discipline and order are disturbed in the penal institution due to the act of chanting or singing the anthem.The fact is that the incident that was the subject of action was related to the slogans and songs sung in favour of the terrorist organisation. This was considered as a threat to the order and security of the institution,” it said.
In his ruling, the judge did not, however, address how singing in Kurdish and dancing the traditional Kurdish halay threatened the security of the prison.
Explaining the grounds for the decision to reject the appeal, the court interpreted Güven’s request to defend herself in Kurdish as a “right to remain silent”. The ruling noted that the judge did not allow Güven to defend herself in Kurdish because she had testified in Turkish during the earlier investigation phase of the proceedings, and because Güven refused the option of paying the interpreter’s fee herself.
Lawyers will lodge an appeal against the judge’s decision with Elazig Criminal Court No.1.
Leyla Güven, former People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP and former mayor of the Viranşehir (Wêranşar) district of Turkey’s southeastern province of Urfa (Riha), was detained on 22 January 2018, and formally arrested nine days later for her criticism of Turkey’s cross-border military operation dubbed “Olive Branch” in Afrin, northern Syria.
When she was elected as an MP in June 2018, she was granted immunity and her release was ordered by a judge. However, the prosecutor appealed and the decision was reversed before she was released.
Güven went on a hunger strike on 7 November 2018 to protest against the solitary confinement conditions that had been imposed on Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
She was released in January 2019, whilst still on hunger strike, and she continued with the strike until 26 May 2019, when she ended it upon news of a relative easing in Öcalan’s prison conditions.
She had made a statement in a wheelchair before she was taken to a hospital for treatment after her 200-day long hunger strike. “The result of this resistance is a victory for the peoples of Turkey,” she said.
On 4 June 2020, she was dismissed from parliament and re-arrested. She was released on 9 June only to be arrested again on 22 December 2020, a day after having been sentenced to a prison term of 22 years for alleged ‘membership of a terror organisation.’ Güven was awarded Honorary Citizenship of Paris on 4 February 2019.