Turkey puts 108 pro-Kurdish politicians on trial over support for 2014 protests

HDP officials during a press conference before the April 26, 2021 trial in Turkey over party members’ support for the Kobani protests. (Photo: Mezopotamya Agency)
HDP officials during a press conference before the April 26, 2021 trial in Turkey over party members’ support for the Kobani protests. (Photo: Mezopotamya Agency)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A court in Turkey’s capital convened Monday for the trial of 108 politicians from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including former co-chairs Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, over their alleged support for protests in 2014.

Seventeen HDP politicians were arrested on Oct. 2, 2020 over their role in protests organized to support the Syrian city of Kobani, which was then under attack from the Islamic State terrorist group. Turkish forces had arrested 82 other people, including HDP officials, a month earlier.

“The protests were opposed by the state security forces and elements sympathetic to ISIS, and 43 people died, almost all supporters of HDP,” the party said Tuesday in a press statement received by Kurdistan 24.

“For calling people to protest, our members are now being accused of terrorism, and also of murder of those who died. These were the same charges made against Selahattin Demirtaș that the ECtHR [European Court of Human Rights] judged not to be a convincing case,” the statement said.

Pro-Turkish government Daily Sabah reported that “the suspects are facing various charges, including murder, burning the Turkish flag, damaging prayer houses, abduction and damaging public property.”

Turkish prosecutors blame the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and HDP for what they characterize as riots and violence during the demonstrations.

The Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office said they will demand that seven HDP deputies currently under investigation be stripped of their parliamentary immunity, Daily Sabah said.

Last month, state prosecutors moved to shut down the HDP, drawing international condemnation.

Scores of people were arrested in the majority-Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in southern Turkey ahead of Monday’s trial, Mezopotamya Agency reported.

Kobani Protests

Public unrest began in October 2014 after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “Kobani is on the verge of falling,” as the besieged town began receiving much-needed air support from the US-led coalition against ISIS.

The HDP then urged people to take to the streets to protest the ISIS assault on Kobani and to condemn Erdogan’s government for its perceived support of the extremist group.

The protests turned violent and clashes between various groups led to the killing of at least 43 people, including 33 HDP supporters, six members of a Kurdish-Islamist group, two police officers, and two Syrian refugees.

The HDP said that the trial will be monitored by its officials, including HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar, along with international observers which include parliamentarians, lawyers, and representatives of non-governmental organizations).

“This hearing was organized to kill the hopes of freedom and peace. We will continue to resist for peace, democracy, freedom and truth,” Sancar said during a press conference before the start of the trial.

“This is a revenge case. It is a case that is the product of the government that could not get over the defeat of ISIS in Kobani,” he added.

The Associated Press reported that the trial began in a tense atmosphere after the court committee refused to admit some of the party’s lawyers, claiming it undermined their defense.

The defendants said they would not answer the court’s questions without their lawyers, the AP said.

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly