Selahattin Demirtas , a Turkish politician and former leader of the pro-Kurdish party HDP, Turkey’s third largest in parliamentary representation, will see a key trial against him begin on Monday, in which 107 other members of his group also sit on the defendant’s bench. party .
All are accused by the Turkish prosecution of encouraging two days of protest in October 2014, in southern Turkey. At that time, Islamic State jihadists were besieging the Syrian city of Kobane , where Kurdish- Syrian militias , the YPG , were resisting inside the city. These militias allied to the US in Syria are linked to the guerrillas of the PKK , the enemy number one of Ankara . Turkey, the EU and the United States consider it a terrorist.
At the time, however, the Islamic State was spreading like wildfire throughout eastern Syria, and HDP leaders were protesting what they called the “inaction” of the Turkish government, which, they said, was “more concerned with the YPG. than the IS jihadists ”.
Demirtas, in the city of Suruç – north of the border with Syria and a few kilometers from Kobane – asked Turkey to open the border so that the Kurds of Turkey could go to fight with those of Syria. Turkey did not accept, and demonstrations began that turned violent to the extreme. In three days of protests, 31 people died . 221 civilians and 139 police officers were injured, according to official counts.
Demirtas and other members of his party saw their parliamentary immunity lifted in the spring of 2016, and they were arrested in November of that same year. Since then, many have been in pretrial detention awaiting trial. Demirtas, for his part, was held in a maximum security prison in western Turkey.
“We look with dismay at the recent events in Turkey that are related to the systematic repression suffered by elected politicians, with politically motivated cases against the HDP. For years, the HDP has been calling for a parliamentary investigation to shed light on what led to the violence, but Erdogan’s party , the AKP, has always blocked these proposals, ”a group of European parliamentarians said in a statement. progressive .
On several occasions, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has demanded the freedom of Demirtas , saying that his imprisonment violates his freedom of expression and his right to stand in elections. “Demirtas is a terrorist . We do not care about the ECHR ruling, ”said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu .
Forbidden to protest
At the entrance of the Ankara courts, this Monday morning, the police presence was enormous and the current leaders of the HDP were preparing to make a statement before the cameras. But just at that moment, a police cordon has been arranged between the microphones and the cameras. The objective was clear: to avoid any political speech.
“We wanted to come and make a statement before the trial, but as you can see, they have put a wall in front of us. This is another indication that they are afraid of the truth . They think they can silence our voices, but they are wrong, ”said Mithat Sancar , current HDP co-leader, who has been recorded by other members of his party.
Demirtas and the other 107 defendants are accused, among other crimes, of “ attempting to subvert the unity of the state , calling for violence, burning Turkish flags, links with a terrorist organization , damaging public space and religious buildings and causing the death of 31 people ”.