Kurdistan Trial of Turkey's pro-Kurdish leader begins, more mayors arrested

Trial of Turkey's pro-Kurdish leader begins, more mayors arrested
A smartphone picture taken by a lawyer of the imprisoned Co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas seen through video conference at a court in the Mardin Province where his trial began, Nov. 25, 2016.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – The trial of Selahattin Demirtas, the Co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), by a Turkish court began on Friday as police arrested two more mayors in Mardin Province.

Demirtas who had been kept in a high-security prison since early November in the province of Edirne near the border with Bulgaria attended the trial at a Turkish penal court in the Kurdish city of Mardin via video conference.

“My legislative powers and authority to represent the will of the people have been taken away by force,” Demirtas told the court, according to the private-owned Turkish Dogan news agency.

HDP leaders Demirtas, Figen Yuksekdag, and their party’s eight lawmakers were put in prison in a crackdown three weeks ago.

The agency said the court tried Demirtas of the crimes “openly insulting Turkishness, the Republic of Turkey and the Parliament, the soldiers and police of the state” based on a speech he made in February 2016 where he criticized the then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu over army operations in the Kurdish town of Cizre.

“We will resist your fascism. Hey, Davutoglu you will not see the light of day. Your palaces will crumble down. History will write about you in one page, mentioning you as the tyrant Prime Minister,” Demirtas had said about the former PM.

Davutoglu was forced to resign in May by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over a leadership crisis in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Cizre became a focal point of the 2015-2016 urban warfare between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated fighters and the Turkish Army when more than 100 civilians sheltering in a basement were killed in an attack by government forces on Feb. 7.

Demirtas’ lawyers were present both at the court in Mardin and in prison in Edirne as he rejected the charges against himself and demanded a release as the head of the second largest opposition block.

Meanwhile, anti-terror police units raided the Democratic Regions Party (DBP)-run Municipality of Kiziltepe district, adjacent to Mardin, and arrested its co-mayors Leyla Salman and Ismail Asi, reported the Kurdistan24 bureau in Diyarbakir.

Salman and Asi, whose arrest followed the Thursday imprisonment of Mardin’s Provincial Mayor Ahmet Turk, were elected with 60 percent of votes in the 2014 local elections.


Editing by Karzan Sulaivany