First Published: 2018-01-12

Jailed HDP leader Demirtas appears in Turkey court
Selahattin Demirtas, outgoing leader of pro-Kurdish party currently enmeshed by 96 legal cases, given hero's welcome by supporters outside Istanbul courthouse.
Middle East Online

Demirtas hit out at trials taking place against him in which he has been unable to defend himself.

ISTANBUL - The jailed co-leader of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party on Friday appeared in court for the first time since his arrest in late 2016, insisting that his detention was unlawful.

Selahattin Demirtas was given a hero's welcome by supporters as he arrived at the Istanbul courthouse for a case where he is charged with "insulting" President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It is one of 96 legal cases that have enmeshed the politician.

The charismatic outgoing co-chairman is the best-known face of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which he led to great success in June 2015 polls when it entered parliament for the first time.

A smiling Demirtas, 44, wearing a black suit and white shirt saluted those chanting "chief" as he was surrounded by members of the gendarmerie.

Over 1,000 people gathered outside the court in the district of Bakirkoy, correspondents said, as they chanted "Demirtas is our honour" and "shoulder to shoulder against fascism!".

In his testimony, Demirtas hit out at the trials taking place against him in which he has been unable to defend himself and insisted his immunity from prosecution as an MP was still valid.

"I have immunity as much as all MPs in parliament, I have immunity as much as (prime minister) Binali Yildirim," he told the court.

In May 2016, a law was passed lifting 138 MPs immunity from prosecution. The HDP has previously said the measure is aimed at expelling its MPs from parliament.

Demirtas called for his conditional release but the judge said the request had to be presented in writing for "detailed examination", before postponing the trial to May 17.

In the most serious case against Demirtas, which is being heard in Ankara, the former human rights lawyer is accused of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) who have waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies. If convicted, he faces up to 142 years in that case.

Demirtas was among 12 HDP MPs taken into custody in November 2016 under the state of emergency imposed following the failed overthrow of Erdogan in July of that year.

Now, nine MPs including Demirtas remain in jail including the party's former co-leader Figen Yuksekdag who was stripped of her MP status in February 2016.

She resigned in May last year as co-leader and Demirtas last week said he would also step down as co-chairman of the party at a congress next month, fearing that he would likely remain imprisoned.

 

UN Security Council lenient to Turkey’s Syria offensive

Washington probes Hezbollah ‘narcoterrorism’

Tillerson to present US strategy on Syria to European, Arab allies

Russia pension funds may invest in Aramco IPO

Iranian woman skydiver looks to break down stereotypes

Turkish army clashes with Kurdish militia amid US alarm

Turkey arrests dozens accused of ‘terror propaganda’

Three French female jihadists face possible death penalty in Iraq

Women journalists protest separation during Pence visit to Jerusalem

Egypt military accuses presidential hopeful of committing crimes

Israeli minister calls to ban author praising Palestinian teen

Qatar supports Turkey’s offensive against Kurds

World powers meet on Syria chemical attacks

Morocco's king appoints five new ministers

Pence pledges US embassy move by end of 2019 on Jerusalem trip

Russia calls for diplomatic solution to Yemen conflict

Russia invites Kurds to join Syria peace process

Turkey shells Kurdish targets in northern Syria

Closer look at pro-Ankara rebels amassing around Afrin

Pence set for Palestinian snub

Abbas to ask EU to recognise Palestinian state

Saudi-led coalition to give $1.5 bln in Yemen aid

Mattis: Turkey gave US advance warning on Syria operation

Yemen releases budget for first time in three years

Saudi calls for cooperation between OPEC, non-OPEC countries

France presses Turkey to end offensive against Kurds

The changing faces of al-Qaeda in Syria

Kurdish militia fire rockets at Turkish town

Moroccans wary depreciation of dirham could raise cost of living, despite benefits

Deserted streets, terrified civilians after Turkey attacks Afrin

Iraqi, Kurdish leaders hold talks on bitter regional dispute

Russia-led Syria peace congress to be held January 30

Turkey launches new strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria

Egypt's Sisi says will stand for re-election

Pence heads to Mideast despite Muslim, Christian anger

Assad regime says Syria a 'tourist' destination

Journalists arrested while reporting Sudan protests

Aid for millions of Palestinians hostage to politics

Lebanon thwarts holiday attacks using IS informant

Mortar fire wounds 14 in Syria mental hospital

Turkish military fires on Kurdish forces in Syria's Afrin

More than 32,000 Yemenis displaced in intensified fighting

UN warns of "lost generation" in South Sudan's grinding conflict

Saudi's refined oil exports offset crude curbs

US to overtake Saudi as world’s second crude oil producer