For The Los Angeles Times
Istanbul — She is facing a potential sentence of 83 years in prison. The crime, some would say, is belonging to the political opposition that is under siege by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Figen Yuksekdag, co-chair of the country’s leading pro-Kurdish political party, is among the most prominent targets of a massive legal assault on Turkey’s Kurdish opposition in the run-up to a vote on a constitutional amendment that could grant Erdogan sweeping powers.
The government has already stripped her of her seat in parliament for allegedly supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). She stands accused in scores of other terrorism-related cases — as does her co-leader of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas, who has been sentenced to five months in prison for “insulting the Turkish nation.”
Among Yuksekdag’s alleged crimes: delivering a speech in 2015 that lent support to Kurdish militias battling Islamic State in Syria, and attending the funeral of a suspected leftist militant in 2012.
Using emergency powers in place since last July, Turkey has jailed 13 HDP lawmakers and more than 5,000 of the party’s workers over alleged terror links. In the Kurdish southeast, where the HDP enjoys an electoral majority, more than 80 locally elected district governments have been replaced by federally appointed caretakers, their former heads imprisoned.
In addition, dozens of news outlets have been shuttered, scores of journalists arrested, and art exhibits and cultural festivals have been banned for allegedly supporting the PKK.
The crackdown has gutted what was once touted as a political bloc that could help end the PKK’s four-decades-long insurgency, which has claimed 40,000 lives.
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