Ex-Kurdish Party MP Seeks Asylum in Greece

THESSALONIKI, GREECE, A former lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party has requested asylum in Greece after fleeing Turkey in violation of conditional prison release terms, a police source said Friday.

Leyla Birlik, 44, submitted the request after illegally crossing the border between the two countries on Wednesday, local police told AFP.

The case could put fresh strain on Greece’s often fraught relations with Turkey.

Athens and Ankara have lately clashed over Turkish demands that Greece extradite eight Turkish soldiers wanted over the July 2016 attempted coup aimed at unseating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Birlik is a former MP from the HDP representing Sirnak province in the Kurdish-majority southeast. Sirnak borders Iraq and Syria.

Ankara considers the HDP to have links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies, including the United States and the European Union.

Birlik’s parliamentary immunity was lifted in May 2016, on accusations of making “terror propaganda,” according to CNN-Turk television.

On Nov. 4, 2016, she was arrested, alongside 13 other HDP MPs on charges of “membership in PKK, making terror propaganda and engaged in activities on behalf of the group,” CNN-Turk said.

She was released under judicial control in January 2017, but was placed under an overseas travel ban and had to report to authorities at regular intervals.

A year later, a Sirnak court sentenced Birlik to a year and nine months in prison for “insulting” Erdogan, based on a press statement she had made in 2015.

Turkey had also held for over five months two Greek soldiers on espionage charges after they illegally crossed the border. They were unexpectedly released earlier this month.

Hundreds of Turkish citizens have sought asylum in Greece following the failed coup in 2016.

Source: Voice of America