Women’s activist charged with up to 95 years of prison in Turkey

Ayla Akat Ata, Spokesperson of the Free Women's Congress

Former Batman HDP Deputy Ayla Akat Ata, detained since 30 October last year, has been formally charged with up to 95 years of prison.

The chief prosecutor of Diyarbakir charged Ata, a lawyer and spokesperson of the Free Women’s Congress (KJA), with “founding and directing an armed terror organisation” citing her membership of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) – a legal entity in Turkey and a platform of Kurdish associations and movements that has proclaimed democratic self-government – which according to the prosecutor acts as a front for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), both classified as terrorist organisations in Turkey.

The prosecutor charged Ata for making propaganda as she had retweeted HDP deputies Faysal Sariyildiz, Nursel Aydogan and Ziya Pir on Twitter and tweeted about the deaths of fighters with the Syrian-Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ).

The charges recount former lawmaker Ata’s visits to the offices of the DTK in the city of Diyarbakir on various occasions, where she has coordinated meetings. The prosecutor is bringing charges against Ata for having attended these meetings which it says “prove she is a high ranking member of an armed organisation”.

Ata has denied that the DTK is part of the PKK or the KCK but that the organisation, on the initiative of Abdullah Ocalan, was founded in order to to democratise the Republic. “The DTK is a transparent organisation and all its initiatives are legal and open to the public. The aims of the DTK are clearly stated and it is a platform for many organisations. All the work is carefully watched and inspected by the state,” Ata said in her defence statement.

“From what I have understood by the questions posed to me during the investigation, I consider this as an attempt to strip me of my rights to do politics and be in opposition as a deputy and a spokesperson of the KJA. The state has been aware of the DTK’s activities since 2007 and is now, In my view, trying to criminalise the organisation and its activities,” Ata said.

The prosecutor noted that Ayla Akat Ata, former defence lawyer of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, was detained on 26 October for participation in a rally against the arrest of the co-mayor of Diyarbakir Gultan Kisanak.

The co-leaders of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag are facing up to 142 and 83 years imprisonment respectively.