By Steve Sweeney in Britain, 22 January 2019:
LEADING communist Selma Gurkan faces a lengthy jail sentence for making anti-war statements as the Turkish state seeks to criminalise all forms of opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian rule.
The Labour Party of Turkey (Emep) general secretary faces more than seven years in prison for “spreading terrorist propaganda” after speaking out against Operation Olive Branch, Turkey’s illegal invasion and occupation of the peaceful city of Afrin in northern Syria.
Ms Gurkan’s case was heard in an Istanbul court today. Prosecutor Hakan Ozer was seeking a jail sentence, alleging that her speech outside the hearing of two Emep members, Neslihan Karyemez and Bilal Karaman, in February 2018 created a “negative perception” of the Afrin operation.
The pair were among hundreds who were arrested for making statements opposing Turkey’s military offensive, which had started the previous month.
In court today lawyers demanded time to respond to the charges made against Ms Gurkan and the trial was adjourned until April 24.
Emep insists that it is a legal political party that advocates peace and stands on the side of workers. It argues that criticism of government policy is part of the democratic life of the country.
But Turkey’s authoritarian president has moved to shut down all forms of democracy and opposition; journalists, academics and MPs are among those jailed for challenging his rule.
Despite its legal status as a political party under Turkey’s constitution, Emep was one of 13 organisations banned by the Turkey’s supreme election board the YSK from fielding candidates in March’s local elections, a decision Ms Gurkan branded “totally arbitrary and antidemocratic.”
And the Turkish state, which has shut hundreds of media organisations, including Hayat TV, moved against the party’s newspaper Evrensel last year, issuing a 100,000 lira (£14,470) fine for its criticism of the government’s economic policy.
The fine threatens the future of the newspaper, which has recently been forced to drop pages because high tariffs on imported newsprint has led to increased production costs.
Evrensel remains one of the only newspapers in Turkey reporting on the labour movement and workers’ struggles, and an international campaign been launched to raise funds for its survival.
Emep is one of Turkey’s largest left-wing parties and the attacks are seen as an attempt to silence freedom of speech and the workers’ movement.