Years in prison wanted for Demirtas as HDP prepares to nominate him for Turkey presidency

Incumbent President Erdogan has already launched his election campaign in the run-up to snap polls in June.
author_image Ari Khalidi

ISTANBUL (Kurdistan 24) – Prominent Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas faced the possibility of receiving five more years in prison during a Turkish court hearing on Monday, as opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), sources say, prepares to nominate him as their candidate for President.

Judicial authorities were charging Demirtas, the former Co-chair of HDP and a lawmaker, in jail since late 2016, with propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for a speech in 2013, Kurdistan 24 Istanbul bureau reported.

Prosecutors have already asked for up to 142 years for him in different probes, including one involving accusations of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who recently called for snap polls.

The speech Demirtas made five years ago in March was during a Newroz (Kurdish New Year) celebration in Istanbul, just days before the government and PKK announced a ceasefire and peace negotiations for a political settlement to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.

The former party leader had praised jailed PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan’s role in initiating the talks with the then Prime Minister Erdogan’s government.

Selahattin Demirtas (center) lights fire during a celebration of spring festival of the Kurdish New Year Newroz in Istanbul, with a picture of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan seen on a digital screen, March 17, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)
Selahattin Demirtas (center) lights fire during a celebration of spring festival of the Kurdish New Year Newroz in Istanbul, with a picture of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan seen on a digital screen, March 17, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

An Istanbul court trying Demirtas and MP Sirri Sureyya Onder postponed the hearing to June 8, two weeks before the general and presidential elections.

Demirtas’ lawyers were ordered out by the judge over their objection to the indictment by a prosecutor.

Outside the courthouse, MP Meral Danis Bestas called on the Erdogan administration to release Demirtas for the sake of fair elections.

“Taking your rivals hostage is not politics. It is Fascism. You are mistaken if you think you can make the people surrender by keeping Demirtas in jail,” she said, during a press conference.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany