Arrested HDP co-chair Demirtaş asks for release

Arrested HDP co-chair Demirtaş asks for release

Arrested HDP co-chair Demirtaş asks for release

AFP photo

Selahattin Demirtaş, the arrested co-chair of the Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has requested his release from jail in a petition written to the Eighth Heavy Penal Court in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. 

Demirtaş, who is currently jailed in the northwestern province of Edirne, stated in the petition that he was arrested with “an exaggerated and non-proportional raid aimed at creating a political sensation.”

“We have no doubt that the [arrests of HDP lawmakers] are being directed from a center,” he said, noting that 31 summaries of proceedings were prepared for him and 11 of the prosecutors who prepared them had themselves been arrested for being members of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), believed to have been behind Turkey’s failed July 2016 coup attempt. 

“My indictment was increased to 501 pages and the sentence being sought for me was determined as 142 years in order to create a negative perception in the public. They wanted to create the impression that my arrest was necessary,” Demirtaş added. 

He also noted that “coup-plotters are being tried rapidly” while the trial processes of parliament members are being “indexed to the referendum schedule,” describing this as “attention-grabbing and noteworthy.”

Turkey is set to hold a referendum on April 16 to decide whether to change the government system to an executive presidency with vastly enhanced powers for the president or to protect the current parliamentary system. Demirtaş’s first hearing is on April 28.

The HDP co-chair said in his petition that his right to a fair trial was violated and his rights stemming from being a deputy were seized from him through his arrest. 

“The time in which lawmakers spend in jail brings about heavy consequences and harm to parliament that cannot be compensated. The fact that the co-chairs and 10 deputies of parliament’s third biggest party are arrested in a process where constitutional changes are being made and a referendum will be held is a heavy intervention into politics by the judiciary,” Demirtaş said, adding that the legitimacy of the referendum is “questionable.”

At present a total of 11 HDP figures, including Demirtaş and the HDP’s other co-chair, Figen Yüksekdağ, remain in prison and face hundreds of years in jail.

One HDP deputy, Ferhat Öncü from the southeastern province of Şırnak, was released from prison on Feb. 15.