ANKARA, Turkey (Kurdistan 24) - A Turkish court in Ankara remanded the jailed pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-leader Selahattin Demirtas on Thursday for two more months in the first hearing of his case, 399 days after his arrest.
A Criminal Court judge ruled that Demirtas should remain imprisoned until the next hearing on February 14, 2018, reported a Kurdistan 24 correspondent in the Turkish capital.
Prosecutors have asked up to 142 years in prison for Demirtas whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government accuses of terrorism and separatism.
He has also been charged with insulting the Turkish republic and Erdogan.
Held at a supermax prison since November 2016 when a massive ongoing state crackdown on HDP began resulting in the continued detention of nine lawmakers, over 80 mayors, and seven thousand members, Demirtas was not allowed to appear in the Ankara court.
He refused to participate in the hearing via video conference.
Authorities banned all demonstrations across Ankara as police stopped buses carrying people from various parts of the country at the entrance of the capital.
"Most of the indictment includes press releases, speeches at conferences, panels and similar legal and political activities," a statement on HDP website read.
Following Demirtas's case, other HDP lawmakers, international observers, human rights groups, and Western politicians, activists, and diplomats from the UK and Northern Ireland, France, Greece, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark were barred from attending the session, his party said.
"International observers banned from court today again. Unfortunately, we were turned away for the second day in a row," tweeted Northern Irish Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey.
Over 1,250 lawyers, heads of bar associations across the Kurdish region of Turkey signed up to defend Demirtas, himself a former human rights lawyer.
Yildiz Imrek, one of Demirtas's lawyers, said all the accusations against her client were based on political statements he had made which she argued were within the protection of the right to free speech.
"This trial cannot be deemed separate from the Kurdish cause. HDP gave hope to the masses. The ruling party is in a revanchist manner instrumentalizing judiciary to take on the HDP," Aydin Erdogan, another lawyer told the court.
Demirtas's success of garnering the support of 13 percent of voters in June 2015 parliamentary elections cost the President's Justice and Development Party (AKP) a mandate to form a single-party government for the first time since its coming to power in 2003.
Out of 59 HDP MPs that made to the Turkish Parliament in the snap November elections of 2016, five have so far been ousted from the assembly.
The charismatic Kurdish leader has described his detention as "being a hostage" to Erdogan's plan of "forging a one-man rule" in the country.
Erdogan has called him a "terrorist" and alleged HDP is a political front for the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) with which his government held peace negotiations until mid-2015.
Editing by Sam A.
(Kurdistan 24's Ankara bureau contributed to this report.)