Turkey’s youngest mayor slams ‘ridiculous’ jail term

ISTANBUL: A 25-year-old Kurd who is Turkey’s youngest mayor slammed on Monday as “ridiculous” a four-year jail sentence she was handed for taking part in protests she claims she did not attend.

A court in the southeastern regional capital Diyarbakir said Monday she had been convicted because judges believed the profile of her nose and mouth matched that of a protester filmed at a violent Kurdish rally.

Rezan Zugurli, who was elected mayor of the Lice district of Diyarbakir in March, was sentenced to four years and two months in jail in May for participating in three rallies in 2010 and 2011 in support of the Kurdish rebels.

In their ruling, judges said they believed a protester filmed throwing stones at police wearing blue jeans and a khaki-colored hooded jacket could be Zugurli because her features looked similar.

But Zugurli, a university student, said the person in the video was not her and that she had not joined in any of the protests.

“It’s a ridiculous charge. People can look like each other. I do not accept any of the accusations,” she told AFP.

Zugurli is currently free, pending appeal.

A previous ruling sentencing Zugurli to five years in jail on terrorism charges—again for attending a rally—was overturned by the appeals court, which paved the way for her release in June 2013 after 13 months behind bars.

In that case, she was found guilty on charges of committing crimes “on behalf of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK),” the outlawed group which has waged a deadly insurgency for greater autonomy for Kurds in southeastern Turkey.

Zugurli, representing the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), became Turkey’s youngest mayor after victory in March 30 local elections.

Her jailing came despite gestures by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party that has seen scores of Kurdish prisoners released in recent months.

They had been given long jail sentences under Turkey’s draconian anti-terrorism laws, whose broad wording has led to the jailing of hundreds, including journalists, politicians and academics.

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