Free the Kobani Case prisoners!

After years of trial, 24 political leaders in Turkey were convicted on bogus “terror-related” charges. We demand they be freed immediately.
Today, we demand the immediate release of all of the Kobani case’s prisoners, among them HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, and unequivocally condemn their incarceration.

On 16 May, a Turkish court convicted 24 of 108 members of the progressive People's Democratic Party (HDP) on baseless “terror-related” charges. The 24 convicted political leaders include former party co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, who received prison sentences of 42 years and 30 years, respectively. "Today, we witnessed a massacre of justice," said Tülay Hatimoğulları, co-chairperson of DEM, the HDP’s successor party.

The charges in the trial — better known as the "Kobani case" — hinged on a tweet from October 2014 that called for solidarity with the people of the city of Kobani against attacks by the Islamic State (ISIS) and local Turkish police. More than 37 people were killed in the 2014 Kobani protests — the vast majority by Turkish police gunfire. Yet prosecutors claimed that the Twitter post had incited violence. International legal observers have found no evidence to sustain such a charge.

Reviewing the case in December 2020, the ECHR found that the Tweet “remained within the limits of political speech, in so far as they cannot be construed as a call for violence,” and called for the immediate release of HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş.

Since the beginning of the trial in April 2021, the Progressive International has dispatched multiple delegations to follow the trial's proceedings, expose the case’s political motivations, and defend the democratic struggle in Turkey.

The trial and the associated “closure case” to ban the HDP were designed as political intimidation and legal warfare. The clearest example was the 2023 parliamentary and presidential election, observed by a delegation from the Progressive International, where legal attacks diminished the ability of progressive forces to organize.

In the run-up to the 14 May elections, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government successfully imposed a de facto ban on the HDP. Both cases had their final rulings set just one day after the deadline for electoral candidate lists. The HDP was then forced to reorganise within the separate Green Left Party (YSP) shortly before the 14 May 2023 general elections, drawing resources and time away from campaigns.

In the end, Erdoğan won these manipulated elections. But his government’s mandate is now crumbling.

On 31 March 2024, Turkey’s popular and democratic opposition achieved a historic victory in Turkey's local elections. The opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) continues to govern Turkey’s largest cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, while making inroads in Erdoğan’s right-wing strongholds in Anatolia. At the same time, the popular and left-wing DEM Party — successor to the HDP and YSP — won victories across the Kurdish-majority areas in Turkey's southeast.

After the 2019 elections, Erdoğan’s government simply detained and deposed dozens of newly-elected local leaders it disliked. One of these was the HDP co-mayor of Van, Mustafa Avcı. The Progressive International delegation met with Avcı during the 2023 elections to hear firsthand how he — along with the entire Van municipal council — were replaced by a state-appointed trustees without investigation or justification.

Five years later, Erdoğan attempted to repeat history — and failed. After the government removed the victorious DEM co-mayor of Van, Abdullah Zeydan, the outcry of international solidarity demanded respect for the democratic will of the people of Van. These calls were answered. After an appeal to the Supreme Election Council (YSK), the city is finally governed by Zeydan and the progressive leaders whom it elected.

Justice for the political prisoners of the Kobani case demands the same determined organizing and international solidarity. Today, we demand the immediate release of all of the Kobani case’s prisoners, among them HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, and unequivocally condemn their incarceration.

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