Turkey sentences jailed Kurdish leader Demirtas to over 3 years in prison for 'insulting' Erdogan

Kurdish opposition leader Selahattin Demirtas has been imprisoned by the Turkish government since 2016. (Photo: AFP)
Kurdish opposition leader Selahattin Demirtas has been imprisoned by the Turkish government since 2016. (Photo: AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Selahattin Demirtas, the imprisoned former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), was sentenced to three and a half years in jail by a Turkish court for "insulting" Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Demirtas has been jailed since his arrest in 2016.

His lawyer, Ramazan Demir, wrote on Twitter that the court "gave the sentence at the maximum limit and without applying any reduction," adding that it was one of the highest sentences ever given for such a conviction.

Moreover, he pointed out that Turkey ignored two earlier rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in favor of Demirtas' release, which found that his detention was being carried out as a result of "political motives," 

The Kurdish ANF news agency reported that the celebrated politician was jailed for criticizing one of Erdogan's speeches given after a Turkish jet was shot down by Russia.

Turkey's top prosecutor filed an indictment against the HDP on Wednesday, seeking the closure of the party and a political ban for 687 HDP officials, including Demirtas.

The Turkish government accuses the HDP of having close ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an allegation it has used to justify its crackdown on Kurdish politicians. The HDP denies links to the group, which has been fighting a decades-long insurgency against Ankara over Kurdish rights in Turkey.

"The main reason they are trying to shut down the HDP is to let the People's Alliance win the upcoming election," now scheduled for 2023, Demirtas said earlier in a written response to questions from AFP.

The People’s Alliance is a coalition formed in 2018 between Turkey’s ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ultranationalist anti-Western opposition bloc. This came in the aftermath of the 2015 collapse of peace talks with the PKK and the following year's failed military coup aimed at overthrowing President Erdogan.

The MHP has been pushing its AKP partner to ban the pro-Kurdish HDP party for “links with the PKK” since 2015.

Turkish police arrested Demirtas along with 10 other lawmakers in simultaneous night raids across several provinces in November 2016 on serious charges of terrorism and "separatism," based on various public speeches they had delivered in the past.

In a larger, ongoing case, prosecutors have asked up to 142 years for him for various charges. The 19th Assize Court of Ankara “ruled unanimously” in late 2019 for the release of the former HDP co-chair, the party said at the time.

Read More: Turkish court rules for release of Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas 

But that same month, Turkish prosecutors launched a new investigation requesting his continued imprisonment. 

Also in 2018, a Turkish court ordered Demirtas to pay the equivalent of roughly $4,000 for a 2016 speech that judges also deemed as insulting to Erdogan.

Editing by John J. Catherine