Kurdish politician with chronic dementia forced to testify in Turkish court

Kurdish politician with chronic dementia forced to testify in Turkish court
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In the last hearing session of the "Kobane trial", lawyers have said that the judge's insistence to question former MP Aysel Tugluk is "torture."

A Kurdish politician with severe dementia was forced by a Turkish judge to testify through an audio-visual system on Monday.

Aysel Tugluk, former MP for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), has been imprisoned since December 2016 over "terror" charges.

She had to face a public act of hatred and extreme hostility in September 2017 after her mother died, when a mob protested at her burial in the capital city Ankara, yelling that an Alevi should not be buried in a Sunni cemetery. Officials gave in to the mob and the body was exhumed to be sent to Dersim, the home town of the Tugluk family, for reburial.

Although she was diagnosed with "chronic and progressive dementia" in 2021 by the Faculty of Medicine in Kocaeli University, and the report concluded that she was not fit to stay in prison, a more recent report issued by the Turkish Forensic Medicine Institute (ATK) in February 2022 said that Tugluk has been diagnosed with "mild cognitive impairment" and has "full criminal liability."

In the hearing session of the "Kobane Trial" on Monday, objections by lawyers were rejected and Tugluk was connected to the courtroom through a video link.

Although Tugluk said that she would not be able to talk, the judge continued to ask her questions.

One of the lawyers, Kemal Akalin, objected to the insistence of the judge and said:

"You are plainly making fun of her. Show some respect. Do not torment her."

Lawyer Ezgi Gungordu expressed her objection as well, saying:

"You are asking Aysel Tugluk questions although she told you that she is in no state to answer. You are forcing her to answer. This is torture. The ATK says she can 'partially' speak in defense, but this has no legal basis. You choose to torture her."

The judge interrupted Gungordu to reject her objection, and went on to ask questions to Tugluk.

Gultan Kisanak, former MP and removed mayor of Diyarbakir, who is among the accused in the case, reacted to the insistence of the judge, and said:

"This is torture. Tugluk does not even recognize her lawyer, and you are still asking her questions. This is unacceptable. This is torture and it hurts our conscience."

The judge interrupted Kisanak, and went on to ask questions to Tugluk, who said in response, 'I do not understand the things you say."

Lawyer Ali Bozan said in his objection:

"You have been asking questions to Aysel Tugluk, but could you actually hear what she said? It will not be heard in the records, because it was incomprehensible. What you're doing is deliberate torture."

The objection was once again rejected, and the session continued.

The "Kobane Trial"

108 politicians are accused of inciting violence that led to multiple deaths during the 'Kobane protests' in October 2014, when large masses in Kurdish-majority provinces staged demonstrations in protest against the Turkish government's policy of isolation against the town of Kobane, a north Syrian Kurdish town on the border, as the city was besieged by the Islamic State (ISIS).

Former HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag are among the accused in the case.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeatedly called Demirtas "terrorist" and "perpetrator of murders" in the context of the allegations in the Kobane indictment.

Most of the victims who were killed during the Kobane protests were people affiliated with the HDP.