Former Leader of Kurdish Party Laments Lack of Fair Trial

The Jailed former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish party on Wednesday has lamented the lack of fair trial and steadfastly refused charges of having links to a terrorist organization.

He 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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 criminalize the HDP to change the constitution. That’s why they arrested us in an irregular way,” Mr. 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 democratize this country,” added Mr. Demirtas, who refused to appear via teleconference 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 on Tuesday while Buldan is under investigation by prosecutors.

Ms. Kemalbay started a hunger strike “against this unjust and unlawful detention and prosecution”, the party said in a statement Wednesday.

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Staff Writer

AFP with Staff Writer

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