Jailed Kurdish leader faces charges, lawsuit due to tweets on chemical weapons use

Turkey’s Defense Ministry has filed criminal charges as well as a lawsuit against jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş seeking TL 100,000 ($5,374) in damages due to his tweets about the Turkish army’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish militants, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Mezopotamya news agency.

Turkey has denied allegations in media outlets close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, that its army has used chemical weapons in operations in northern Iraq.

A day after the claims were first made on Oct. 18, a series of tweets that were posted on the Twitter account of Demirtaş, a former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), by his lawyers said they must be investigated by an independent international body.

“My lawyers have informed me that footage is circulating on social media showing the use of chemical weapons against PKK members. In order to clarify the situation, an independent, international delegation should travel to the region and conduct an investigation. The conditions for this must be created,” Demirtaş said.

The Kurdish leader added that the parliament and the opposition couldn’t remain silent about the allegations since “to remain silent is to condone the crime.”

According to Mezopotamya, Demirtaş’s lawyers on Thursday announced that the Turkish Defense Ministry filed a criminal complaint against him due to his tweets about the claims, accusing Demirtaş of “disseminating terrorist propaganda” and “degrading the Turkish nation, the Turkish Republic and the organs and institutions of the state.”

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office initiated an investigation into Demirtaş based on the criminal complaint from the ministry. The ministry is also seeking damages from the Kurdish politician on charges of defaming the Turkish military, Mezopotamya said.

“Instead of enabling the investigation of these serious allegations … we have been faced with the targeting [and] administrative and judicial lynching of individuals and institutions that have pointed out the necessity of investigating [those allegations],” the lawyers also said.

They were also referring to the arrest of Şebnem Korur Fincancı, chairperson of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), a forensic expert and prominent human rights activist, due to her public comments calling for a probe into the same allegations last month.

Arrested on Nov. 4, 2016 on terrorism-related charges, Demirtaş has since then remained in prison despite two European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings in 2018 and 2020 that said Demirtaş was imprisoned for “political” reasons and not for “legal” reasons, ordering his “immediate release.”

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