HDP MP Semra Güzel sent to prison

HDP MP Semra Güzel has been sent to prison. The Turkish judiciary accuses her of being a member of the PKK and of treason and has sent her in Silivri prison.

HDP MP Semra Güzel has been sent to prison. The chief public prosecutor's office in Ankara accuses the Kurdish politician of being a member of a "terrorist organization" - meaning the PKK. She is also accused of "treason". Güzel was arrested in Istanbul on Friday and, after around 24 hours in police custody in the Çağlayan Palace of Justice, was connected to the responsible court in Ankara via video conference system. After the public prosecutor's hearing, a judge ordered pre-trial detention saying that the MP could have an "incentive to flee due to the high expectation of punishment".

The 38-year-old was transferred late on Saturday evening to the Silivri prison complex west of Istanbul, which is considered an internment camp for opposition figures.

Semra Güzel is a trained medical doctor and was elected to the Turkish National Assembly in 2018 as the HDP candidate for the Amed (tr. Diyarbakır) constituency.

Last March, her parliamentary immunity was lifted in a procedure that was unusually quick by Turkish standards. The basis was two preliminary investigation reports from the public prosecutor's office that had been submitted to the Ministry of Justice shortly beforehand. The starting point for the allegations made in it, which are also the basis of the criminal proceedings against Güzel, are photos showing her with her former fiancé, guerrilla Volkan Bora (Koçero Meletî), who died in air raids in Semûr (Adıyaman) in April 2017. The photos were taken in a southern Kurdish guerrilla camp in 2014, when an HDP delegation visited the PKK as part of the peace process with the knowledge of the state to discuss further steps towards de-escalation.

The preparatory work for the withdrawal of immunity with the aim of subsequently imprisoning Güzel was carried out accompanied by a media smear campaign directed by the Turkish interior minister. It was he who made the arrest of the politician public with slogans tinged with nationalism and praised it as a successful operation. Since then, the pro-government social networks have been dominated by videos showing Güzel on the way to the obligatory health check. In it, the MP can be seen, with her hands tied behind her back, and being accompanied by two anti-terrorist officers, who are pulling her hair and trying to hold her head down. Güzel's legal counsel and the HDP spoke of "torture" and sharply condemned the handling of the parliamentarian. It was a pathetic attempt by a minister known for his links to organized crime to try to humiliate the politician by forcing her head to bow. "The mistreatment of Semra Güzel, who is still a member of the Turkish parliament, is nothing more than an obvious sign of weakness in political power," said co-party leader Pervin Buldan.

Defense lawyer, Veysi Eski, explained during Güzel's interrogation that the questions only marginally dealt with the allegations from the prosecutor's preliminary investigation reports. The main focus was on the content of statements made by alleged "witnesses" with reference to Volkan Bora, which only found their way into the investigation file after his client's immunity was withdrawn.

The public prosecutor also wanted to know why the politician Leyla Güven, who had been imprisoned since the end of 2020 due to a 22-year sentence, was in Güzel's apartment prior to her arrest. Another question Eski says Güzel was asked was: "Is the PKK a terrorist organization?" Eski announced that he would contest the arrest warrant against his client.