Turkey's imprisoned Kurdish leader denies links with PKK

"Let politicians who declared the solution process was over be identified so we can determine who caused the emergence of a violent environment," said Demirtas.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - The imprisoned co-chair of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas denied on Thursday having any links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) during a trial held in Diyarbakir.

"I am neither a leader, nor a member or a spokesperson, or a sympathizer of the PKK. I am the co-chair of the HDP," Demirtas told a Diyarbakir court.

The court tried Demirtas for "insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan" during a September 2015 of his party's parliamentary elections campaign in which he held Erdogan responsible for the renewed costly conflict between the Turkish Army and the PKK.

HDP website shared on Friday Demirtas' remarks during his defense.

Kurdistan24 Diyarbakir Bureau reported that Demirtas attended the trial via teleconference from the city of Edirne near the border with Bulgaria where Turkish authorities has held him at a supermax prison since early November 2016.

"The HDP has no single shred of responsibility regarding the bloodshed. It is all on the President and Prime Minister who took the political decision," had said Demirtas at a Diyarbakir press conference in the run-up to the November 2015 elections.

PKK and Turkey began fighting again in July 2015 as a two-year-held ceasefire and peace talks dubbed "solution process" collapsed, leading to an initially urban warfare in dozens of Kurdish cities and towns now left in rubble after months of fighting that saw thousands killed, including several hundred civilians.

At the trial, Demirtas defended himself saying his words contained no insults and they were merely criticism from the head of a political party to the leader of another one.

"Let politicians who declared the solution process was over be identified so we can determine who caused the emergence of a violent environment," said Demirtas adding government officials made statements of ending the peace talks whereas he was being held responsible for ensuing attacks PKK conducted.

Demirtas was a member of a negotiations team shuttling between the Ankara government, PKK's military leadership in Qandil mountains of the Kurdistan Region and the group's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan who serves a life sentence on the Imrali Island Prison in Turkey's northwestern inland sea of Marmara.

A charismatic leader, Demirtas managed to garner enough popular support for a pro-Kurdish party to pass for the first time Turkey's ten percent election threshold, the highest in the world, making it to the Parliament as the second largest opposition block during June 2015 and the following snap elections four months later.

Demirtas ruled out building a coalition with Erdogan-founded Justice and Development Party (AKP) that for the first time in more than a decade failed to form a single-party government after the June elections in which the HDP got 80 seats in the Parliament, 21 of which were lost later.

Along with Demirtas, ten other HDP lawmakers including the party's other co-chair Figen Yuksekdag remain in pre-trial imprisonment.


Editing by Ava Homa