Turkey begins trial of pro-Kurdish leader over 'terrorist links'

Lester Mason
December 7, 2017

Prosecutors are seeking a total of 142 years in prison for Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chairman of the Peoples' Democracy Party - or HDP.

About 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended and roughly 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial since last year's failed coup.

Demirtas is held in a jail in the northwestern city of Edirne. The case was to be held within the city of Ankara itself but was moved to the Sincan prison complex outside the capital, two days before the trial, because of security concerns. The party has previously accused the justice ministry of preventing any court appearances by Demirtas.

Yuksekdag lost her seat in parliament earlier this year after an appeals court confirmed her 2013 conviction for engaging in terrorist propaganda, and later stepped down as the HDP's co-leader.

The trial on terrorism charges of Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party, began in Ankara on Thursday, without the defendant in the courtroom.

The government alleges the HDP, which remains legal, has links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed group. The HDP says as many as 5,000 of its members have been detained.

"It's hard to conclude otherwise than that the case against him is the government's politically motivated attempt to undermine the parliamentary opposition", said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Various intellectuals including Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek have signed a letter along with eight MPs from HDP calling for the "immediate release" of Demirtas.

The HDP is the third-largest party in Turkey's parliament.

Publisher Dipnot said it had printed 155,000 copies and that the book was now in its 15th print run.

Shortly after the June 2015 election, a peace process between the state and the PKK collapsed and violence resumed.

The Turkish parliament stripped lawmakers of legal immunity previous year, paving the way for the arrest of several HDP legislators - including Demirtas and former co-chairwoman Figen Yuksekdag - on terror-related charges.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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