Jailed pro-Kurdish HDP’s Demirtaş refuses to attend hearing in Turkish court

Selahattin Demirtaş.

A lawyer of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş has said on Tuesday that his client will not appear in the first hearing of a case after 399 days in jail, as the court has asked him to testify on terror-linked charges through a voice and video informatics system (SEGBİS), according to the report by Harriet daily news.

“We had informed [the court] that our client would not attend the hearings through SEGBİS, a decision that he should do was taken without showing a valid reason for it. We will now take this issue to the higher court,” Mahsuni Karaman told reporters on Tuesday.

“SEGBİS cannot be used randomly, based on the personal whim [of the court],” Karaman said. “Even though changes have been made through state of emergency decrees, the rules still say SEGBİS can only be used when imperative. The cost [of taking Demirtaş to the court] cannot be considered an imperative reason,” he added, referring to the court’s justification for not transferring Demirtaş to Ankara for the hearing.

The HDP co-chair was initially arrested as part of an investigation launched by the chief public prosecutor’s office in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. The Ankara 19th Criminal Court later took over his case, setting Dec. 7 as the date for his first hearing.

Demirtaş has been under arrest since Nov. 4, 2016 in a prison in the northwestern province of Edirne and faces hundreds of years in jail over alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) along with other charges.

He has been refusing to participate in the hearing in Ankara through SEGBİS, instead insisting on attending the hearing in person because participating in the hearings through SEGBİS would violate his right to a face-to-face trial.

The court has denied that not attending the hearing physically is a violation of this right, stating that Demirtaş will be considered to be using his “right to remain silent” if he does not attend through SEGBİS.

In its justification, the court has said Demirtaş’s transfer to the courthouse in Ankara would pose several difficulties, including high costs and the provision of his security during the transfer.

On July 7, the HDP co-chair did not attend a hearing of his trial in Ankara after refusing to be handcuffed during transfer.

Meanwhile, Council of Europe’s (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks and NGOs ARTICLE 19 and Human Rights Watch (HRW) had appealed to be third parties in the case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for Selahattin Demirtaş and former co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ, and the appeal has been approved.

HDP issued a statement and said that “As it is known, our co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ and our deputies, who were unjustly arrested and have been in prison for almost a year, had appealed to the ECtHR regarding their arrest. Muižnieks and NGOs ARTICLE 19 and HRW had appealed to be third parties to the ongoing case at the ECtHR, and their appeal has been approved. The Inter-Parliamentary Union, comprised of parliamentarians from United Nations member states, has also submitted an appeal, which has reached the court.”

In addition to Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ, 8 deputies from the HDP are also currently in jail on terrorism charges.

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