All the returnees, with the exception of four minors, are standing trial in three groups at two separate courts in the eastern city of Diyarbakır.For background on the returnees, see May 2 post.
The hearing Thursday included 16 people, 10 of whom were arrested by the court on grounds that they pose a flight risk. The remaining six will be on trial without arrest.
The charges against the group were brought in two separate indictments regarding the festivities that welcomed them back to Turkey and the statements they gave at various times and locations afterward. The group reportedly re-entered Turkey in response to a call from convicted PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and was welcomed at the Habur gate with ceremonies that sparked unrest in other parts of the country.
The PKK has been listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
The eight PKK members in the group are on trial for “being a member of a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and each face 20 years in prison. The returnees from Makhmour, who each face a potential 15 years in jail, are being charged with “committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organization without being a member” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” A total of 25 lawyers are defending the group.
The court informed the suspects that separate indictments had been prepared for each of them and merged before the trial, then asked for their defense. Suspect Mustafa Ayhan said group members would offer a joint defense and read the text.
UPDATE I (6/24) -- After some of those standing trial failed to attend a second hearing, the court issued an order declaring that the charged will be brought to the court by force if necessary.