Jailed Kurdish politician given prison sentence on conviction of insulting former PM

Former co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been behind bars since November 2016, has been given a jail sentence of almost a year on conviction of insulting former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Mezopotamya news agency.

Demirtaş was sentenced of 11 months, 20 days on the grounds that he insulted then-Prime Minister Davutoğlu in a speech he made in the southern province of Mersin in February 2016.

A Mersin court handed down the jail sentence to Demirtaş in a ruling on Monday and refused to suspend the sentence.

Demirtaş attended the hearing via the IT Voice and Image System (SEGBİS) from Edirne Prison, where he is jailed.

“Although he is now the leader of an opposition party, he [Davutoğlu] did not withdraw his lawsuit,” Demirtaş said.

A former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Davutoğlu resigned from the position of prime minister in May 2016 and from the AKP in September 2019, criticizing the one-man rule in his previous party.

He established and became the first chairman of the opposition Future Party (GP) in December 2019.

Demirtaş said his remarks about Davutoğlu were criticism and did not include any insult.

During Davutoğlu’s term as prime minister, Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast saw heavy fighting between the Turkish military and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, which led to the deaths of many civilians, severe damage to cities and displacement of the locals.

Demirtaş criticized the military operations in the region at the time.

The PKK, which has been waging a war in the country’s Southeast since 1984, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

The Kurdish politician has been behind bars since November 2016 despite a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling in November 2018 that his pre-trial detention was political and ordering his release. Turkish courts refused to implement the ruling, and a regional appeals court in Turkey subsequently upheld a prison sentence handed down to Demirtaş for disseminating terrorist propaganda.

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