Co-chair of MEBYA-DER sentenced to ten years in prison

Yüksel Almas, co-chair of the MEBYA-DER solidarity association for people who lost loved ones in the Kurdish liberation struggle, has been sentenced to ten years in prison.

The Turkish judiciary continues to intensify the pressure on Kurdish civil society. The co-chair of the Solidarity Association of Families of Martyrs (MEBYA-DER), Yüksel Almas, was sentenced to ten years in prison in Amed (tr. Diyarbakir). The prosecution accuses the Kurd, who has been in pre-trial detention since last March, of being a member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). At the beginning of November, Şeyhmus Karadağ, co-chair of the association, had been sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison. 

The evidence against Yüksel Almas was mainly the activities of the association, commemorative events, interviews and speeches. The activist's statements on the burning of her native village by the Turkish army, torture and expulsion in the 1990s have been interpreted as "membership in a terrorist organisation", as have her demands to clarify the murders by unknown perpetrators and thus extra-legal executions, to reveal the locations of mass graves and to hand over abducted bodies of those killed in the Kurdish liberation struggle.

Almas' criticism of the desecration of corpses by Turkish security forces and the organisation of commemorative events for victims of the "deep state", including the Kurdish intellectual and writer Musa Anter, could also be attributed to the PKK, according to the court. Yüksel Almas, who was brought into the trial from the women's prison in Amed, denied all the charges against her and told the court that all the events criminalised by the prosecution were legal activities. As a personal victim of a deadly state policy that was responsible for the "disappearance" of her husband in 1995, she said, she worked for MEBYA-DER "so that other people would be spared the pain and suffering" that she herself had to experience.

Almas' defence lawyers, Hava Atlı and Muhittin Muğuç, demanded acquittal or a light prison sentence and the cancellation of the arrest warrant. The lawyers stated that Almas suffers from asthma and heart disease and a continued detention would worsen her health. The court rejected all the requests and set the sentence in the upper range based on Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code. Atlı and Muğuç have announced that they would appeal the court ruling.

Aid and solidarity association

MEBYA-DER is a solidarity association for people who have lost relatives in the Kurdish liberation struggle and has been the focus of state repression in Turkey for some time. "Aid and Solidarity Association for People Who Lost Their Relatives in the Cradle of Civilisations" is the full name of the association, which has branches in several Kurdish cities. The Turkish state uses fallen guerrilla fighters as a means of psychological warfare by vandalising graves and abusing or mutilating the bodies of the fallen. MEBYA-DER is one of the institutions that directly opposes this policy.