An İstanbul prosecutor has sought five years in prison for Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and Sırrı Süreyya Önder, an HDP deputy.
According to a Monday report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the prosecutor accused Demirtaş, who is already in pretrial detention on charges of terrorism, and HDP deputy Önder of allegedly spreading terrorist propaganda in speeches they gave five years ago.
Demirtaş and Önder reportedly made their speeches during celebrations for the spring festival of Nevroz in İstanbul in March 2013.
Önder attended the fifth hearing of the trial, which was held at the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court on the Silivri Prison campus, but Demirtaş was not in attendance due to a health report.
The prosecutor demanded up to five years in prison for Demirtaş and Önder for alleged dissemination of terrorist propaganda. The court ruled that Demirtaş appear via video conferencing system SEGBİS at the next hearing, to be held on June 8 at the İstanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan.
In November 2016, Demirtaş together with 12 HDP deputies were arrested on terror-related charges. Demirtaş remains in pretrial detention. The deputies face prosecution under anti-terrorism legislation after their parliamentary immunity was lifted.
The HDP is the second-largest opposition party in the Turkish Parliament. The Turkish government’s crackdown on the Kurdish political movement began in late 2016 with the arrest of high profile politicians, including the party’s then co-chairs, Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, which led to the detention of at least 5,000 members of the HDP, including 80 mayors.
Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast. There are currently nine HDP deputies behind bars. The developments have attracted widespread criticism from the region and Western countries.
Turkish authorities had conducted direct talks with Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for several years until a truce in effect collapsed in the summer of 2015. Since then, there have been heavy clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces.
More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. Over 1,200 Turkish security personnel and civilians, including a number of women and children, have been killed since July 2015 alone, when the Turkish government and the PKK resumed the armed struggle.