Turkey’s ex-Kurdish leader blasts ‘unfair trial’ in court appearance

Turkey's ex-Kurdish leader blasts 'unfair trial' in court appearance

Sincan (Turkey) (AFP) – The jailed former co-leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party on Wednesday said he had not been given the “slightest” chance of a fair hearing, as his trial on terror charges resumed.

Selahattin Demirtas, who led the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) into parliament for the first time in June 2015 polls, was appearing in court for the first time in the case.

There are several investigations against Demirtas but this case — where he is accused of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — is the most serious.

The former HDP co-chief was jailed in November 2016 in a crackdown that followed the July failed coup. Nine MPs including Demirtas and his former co leader Figen Yuksekdag remain in jail.

Testifying, Demirtas told the court that his arrest was linked to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s push to change the constitution to create an executive presidency last year.

“They had to criminalise the HDP to change the constitution. That’s why they arrested us in an irregular way,” Demirtas, 44, said, according to tweets by the HDP.

Turks narrowly approved in April 2017 boosting the powers of the president, but Demirtas had repeatedly vowed to stand in the way of Erdogan’s bid.

“To this day, I have not been given the slightest impression that I will have a fair trial,” Demirtas told the hearing. 

“But whether we imprisoned or free, we will continue to work to democratise this country,” added Demirtas, who refused to appear via videolink in the opening hearing in December.

Foreign representatives including German ambassador to Turkey Martin Erdmann were refused entry to the courtroom at the Sincan prison complex in Ankara province. An AFP correspondent was also not allowed in.

The party on Sunday elected two new leaders, lawmaker Pervin Buldan and former MP Sezai Temelli, who also attended the hearing.

The HDP has come under new pressure in the last days being the only Turkish political party to criticise Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish militia in Syria.   

Former leader Serpil Kemalbay was detained Tuesday while Buldan is under investigation by prosecutors.