HDP’s Demirtaş: No chance of fair trial in Turkey under Erdoğan

Selahattin Demirtaş.

Turkey’s jailed pro-Kurdish opposition leader said no judge could stand up to Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, expressing doubts he could ever have a fair trial after Erdoğan publicly labeled him a terrorist.

Selahattin Demirtaş gave a written interview to Reuters and said he believed he accepted some blame for failing to halt the collapse of peace talks between the government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The former human rights lawyer is one of more than a dozen lawmakers from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) arrested in a crackdown that followed last year’s attempted coup. “The decision to arrest me and my colleagues is political. Currently, Turkey’s judiciary is under the complete control and pressure of the AKP,” Demirtaş said, referring to the ruling party founded by Erdoğan. “No one has the chance of a fair trial,” he said in written response to questions submitted by Reuters to his lawyers.

“Unfortunately, no judges in Turkey can object to Erdoğan’s unlawful and transgressive remarks. Judges are facing the threat of being removed, sacked or jailed. We will certainly hold Erdoğan and judges who abide by him accountable.”

Erdoğan has made his feelings about Demirtaş clear when asked about him this month by a reporter. “Turkey is a state of law…The person you mentioned is a terrorist. We don’t have the authority to release terrorists from jail.”

Demirtaş has turned the HDP into the third-largest party in parliament, drawing support from beyond its Kurdish core to include some pro-Western liberals. Its emergence has at times threatened to hinder an overall AK Party majority.

The HDP says as many as 5,000 of its members have been detained. Prosecutors are seeking jail sentences of 142 years for Demirtaş and 83 years for former HDP co-head Figen Yüsekdağ on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist group. Demirtaş, who was jailed in November and is being held at a prison in the northwestern province of Edirne, refused to attend a court hearing two weeks ago because police told him he would have to be handcuffed.

The HDP denies direct ties to the PKK, which since 1984 has carried out an armed insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast that has left more than 40,000 dead.

In July 2015 a peace process between the PKK and the state collapsed, plunging the southeast into some of the worst violence in decades. Demirtaş said the HDP could have done more to save the peace talks and added, “President Erdoğan and his AK Party thought that the peace process was costing them votes, and decided to terminate it. The PKK didn’t do enough to revive the process, and to frustrate the AK Party’s policies of war and violence.”

July 19, 2017

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