Jailed Kurdish politician gets same sentence in retrial due to remarks about prosecutor

A Turkish court, in a retrial concluded on Friday, handed down a prison sentence of two-and-a-half years to jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, the same sentence he was given due to his remarks allegedly targeting a prosecutor, Turkish Minute reported citing the announcement of his lawyer.

Demirtaş, a former co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was retried after a regional appeals court in April overturned a prison sentence of two-and-a-half years handed down to him on conviction of targeting the public prosecutor who indicted him along with 107 other Kurdish politicians due to their alleged role in deadly 2014 protests in southeastern Turkey.

Demirtaş was charged with threatening and targeting a public official who was part of the fight against terrorism due to his remarks while presenting a defense at an Ankara court against prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman, who had ordered the detention of 82 Kurdish politicians in September 2020.

Kocaman filed a complaint against Demirtaş because the Kurdish leader accused him of drafting an indictment against him and the other Kurdish politicians in disregard of the law and said he would settle accounts with him one day before the law.

Demirtaş was sentenced to prison by the Ankara 25th High Criminal Court in May 2021. His lawyers appealed the decision.

Demirtaş’s lawyer, Mahsuni Karaman, tweeted on Friday that Demirtaş was again sentenced to two-and-a-half years just for saying he would settle accounts before the law and posted a photo of the court records showing Demirtaş’s relevant remarks.

“We will settle accounts with you before the law,” said the lawyer.

In January 2021 a Turkish court accepted an indictment naming 108 people including jailed politicians Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, also a former co-chair of the HDP, in connection to the Kobani protests of 2014, seeking punishment for the suspects on various charges including 37 cases of homicide and disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state.

The protests broke out against the Turkish army’s inaction in the face of an Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) offensive against the largely Kurdish northern Syrian town of Kobani.

“I will not let anyone not face the consequences of their actions. An accounting will be sought before the law,” Demirtaş had said, referring to Kocaman, who was the Ankara chief public prosecutor at the time.

His remarks were interpreted as threatening the prosecutor; however, Demirtaş said during a later hearing that he had no intention of threatening the prosecutor and that what he meant was settling accounts with him in court.

The jailed politician described the trial as a “plot” against him and accused the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of stepping up pressure on its critics and opponents through orders to the judiciary.

Kocaman came to public attention in Turkey when he visited President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at his presidential palace with his bride on his wedding day and received gifts there in September 2020.

The visit was viewed as an indication of the current state of judicial independence, or lack thereof.

Shortly after the visit, he was appointed as a member of the country’s Supreme Court of Appeals by Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK).

Turkey has kept Demirtaş behind bars since November 2016 despite rulings from the European Court of Human Rights that called for his immediate release in 2018 and December 2020 as part of another case.

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