ISTANBUL — More than 100 people linked to a pro-Kurdish party are to go on trial Monday in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, for their alleged involvement in violent protests nearly seven years ago.
Prosecutors have charged the 108 defendants with 29 crimes, including the murders of 37 people, and are seeking multiple life sentences and thousands of years in prison The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, says the trial is politically motivated and is the latest in a severe government crackdown against them.
Among the defendants are the former leaders of the HDP. Although they did not directly carry out violent acts, they have been charged with these offenses for inciting the violence.
All the charges relate to the “Kobani protests” that took place Oct. 6-8, 2014, as the Islamic State group was closing in on the Syrian town of Kobani, right across the Turkish border. As IS took over the countryside and entered the town, Syrian Kurdish militants fought the extremists in street-to-street battles.
Many ethnic Kurds in Turkey were frustrated by what they saw as the Turkish government’s inaction to help defeat IS. They were demanding Turkey open the border.
Smaller protests were already taking place but they turned bigger after the HDP, on Oct. 6, tweeted an “urgent call” for people to take to the streets and protest the IS attacks and the Turkish government’s “embargo” on Kobani. It said the situation was critical in Kobani.
The protests turned violent but the HDP maintains their call was peaceful and that there were provocateurs. The 3,350-page indictment says 37 people died, 761 — including hundreds of law enforcement officers — were wounded, 197 schools were burned, 269 public buildings damaged, 1,731 homes and businesses looted and 1,230 cars made unusable.