A Turkish court has ruled that Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), will be considered to be using his “right to remain silent” if he continues to refuse to testify through the voice and video informatics system (SEGBİS). Demirtaş has been refusing to participate in the hearing in Ankara through SEGBİS, instead insisting on attending the hearing in person.
Demirtaş, who has been kept in a prison in the northwestern province of Edirne since November 4, 2016 and faces hundreds of years in jail over alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) alongside with many other charges, says 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, so Demirtaş, a professional lawyer, will be considered to be using his “right to remain silent” if he does not attend through SEGBİS.
In its ruling, the court 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. At that time his party released a statement saying that “Demirtaş represents the people’s will.”
Demirtaş had also stated that “I’m still a lawmaker with ongoing parliamentary immunity. I represent the people’s will. I find it illegal and immoral to be handcuffed for a journey that will last for hours… In a case in which I’m being tried under arrest, the day of the hearing is still undetermined. We will resist injustice in every circumstance and will protect the honor of the people’s will that we represent.”
The government has been criticized for stepping up a crackdown on Kurdish politicians. There are currently 10 HDP deputies behind bars in Turkey. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, while hundreds of local Kurdish politicians have been arrested on terror charges.