Selahattin Demirtas, Co-Leader of Pro-Kurdish HDP Party, Faces 5 Years in Prison

Turkish news media reported today, August 11, that a prosecutor in Istanbul court is demanding a sentence of 5 years in prison for the co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas, who is accused of disseminating terrorist propaganda.

Selahattin Demitras (Image by Hilmi Hacaloglu/Public Domain)

Selahattin Demirtas (Image by Hilmi Hacaloglu/Public Domain)

Istanbul court accused HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, and HDP MP Sirri Suraya Onder, of promoting “terrorist propaganda” in their speeches during a rally in support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan on March 17, 2013.

The March 17th rally, organized by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK), was the basis for the charges against Demirtas and Onder as they allegedly attended the rally and publicly praised PKK’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan. “The suspects are lawmakers of a party represented in parliament. Some of the speeches made in the rally in Istanbul praised PKK/KCK, which aims to form an independent Kurdistan party based on Marxist and Leninist values, and which has staged armed attacks since 1984,” the official indictment states.

“Kurdish Issue” and HDP

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, was founded in 2012 and became a parliamentary party on June 7, 2015, during the general elections to the surprise of many, as election census’ usually eliminated minor parties in Turkey.

HDP’s rise to political prominence caused dissatisfaction in the ruling AKP party, which was denied parliamentary majority in the June 2015 election. After a series of failed negotiations between the ruling AKP party and the opposition CHP and MHP parties on forming the government, the political crisis in Turkey resulted in an early election, which was scheduled for November 1, 2015.

The AKP’s main target during the campaign for the November 1st early election was HDP, characterized as a “political wing” of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is considered as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.

Although HDP consistently denies ties with PKK, and has served as intermediary between the AKP-led government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the government and President Erdogan maintained their views on HDP as a terrorism-linked political party.

The “Kurdish issue” in Turkey has escalated over the past few years, following the broken ceasefire between the government and the PKK.

Controversial Bill Stripped MPs of their Immunity from Prosecution

Erodgan’s and AKP’s insistence on prosecuting HDP MPs due to their links with the PKK, resulted in the passing of a controversial bill in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (parliament) in May of this year, which strips MPS of their immunity. That bill, in fact, enabled prosecution of Demirtas and Onder on charges of “disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

Although post-coup Turkish politics has shown unprecedented unity of all parliamentary parties against the coup and in support of democracy, HDP was left out of all talks on post-coup measures by the ruling AKP and Turkish President Erdogan.

While all parties, including HDP, denounced the coup in a rare joint statement on the parliament’s floor just a day after the coup attempt, HDP was not invited by President Erdogan to a meeting in his palace on July 25th.

HDP was also not invited to the largest post-coup rally in Istanbul, which occurred on Sunday, August 7, by President Erdogan.

Dejan Scepanovic

Based in Bosnia and Herzegovina. BA in political science. Columnist.