Kurdish leader Demirtaş sentenced to 2 years, 6 months’ imprisonment for ‘targeting’ public prosecutor

A court on Friday sentenced Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), to two years, six months’ imprisonment for “targeting officials who took part in counterterrorism efforts” due to his criticism of former Ankara chief public prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman, Turkish media reported.

Demirtaş had criticized Kocaman during a trial at the Ankara 19th High Criminal Court when he said in his defense statement, “I won’t let anyone get away with this, [we will] hold [him] to account.”

Demirtaş attended the Friday hearing at the Ankara 25th High Criminal Court online and said he had meant that the prosecutor would be held to account in a court of law.

Demirtaş has been incarcerated in Edirne Prison since November 4, 2016 on politically motivated charges despite rulings by Turkey’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). He was an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, before he was jailed. He ran in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan. Demirtaş conducted his election campaign from prison for the 2018 election.

In December the ECtHR found Turkey guilty of committing violations on five counts including the rights to freedom of expression and liberty and the right to free and fair elections as well as misuse of limitations on rights in the European Convention on Human Rights. The court’s ruling was made by its Grand Chamber following appeals from both Turkey and Demirtaş to the court’s original ruling in November 2018.

The ECtHR has also asked Turkey to provide its defense for the pre-trial detention of Demirtaş in connection to street protests in the country’s Southeast in 2014 known as Kobani protests, which claimed the lives of 37 people.

Demirtaş had called for street protests in support of Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Kobani while accusing Ankara of failing to provide adequate help to Kobani and of supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which had laid siege to the town.

In a move that was seen as a reward for his pro-government stance Kocaman was appointed to serve at the Supreme Court of Appeals in November. Kocaman’s promotion came two months after he ordered the detention of 82 prominent pro-Kurdish politicians in September over their alleged roles in the Kobani protests.

A wedding day visit of Kocaman and his bride to President Erdoğan at his palace in September had sparked controversy and led to a new debate on the independence of the country’s judiciary.

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