Former HDP co-chair Yüksekdağ appears before court 242 days after arrest
ANKARAFigen Yüksekdağ, the former co-chair and lawmaker of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), appeared at court on July 4 for the first time since her arrest on Nov. 4, 2016.
Yüksekdağ presented her defense in the case in which she is charged with “managing a terrorist organization,” “making propaganda for a terrorist group,” “opposing the law on assembly and demonstrations,” “inciting people to hatred and enmity” and “inciting people to commit crimes.”
The charges specifically relate to the October 2014 protests in Turkey, sparked by the seizure of the Syrian town of Kobane by the jihadists of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The government accused the HDP of urging people to take to the streets across Turkey in protests that left dozens dead.
On Feb. 21, Yüksekdağ lost her parliamentary status for a prison sentence she received in a previous case and was stripped of her party membership on March 9.
Strict security measures were taken inside and outside the courthouse and water cannons were deployed in case of possible altercation.
Yüksekdağ, her lawyers, and many HDP MPs, including its newly-elected co-chair Serpil Kemalbay,
attended the hearing at the Ankara 16th Heavy Penal Court, while court head Sabahattin Sarıdoğan asked representatives of some European political parties and non-governmental organizations to leave the courtroom, citing their lack of accreditation.
“They should have been accredited, I can’t allow them inside. They are foreigners and they should follow the rules,” Sarıdoğan said upon Yüksekdağ’s lawyers’ objections.
During her defense, Yüksekdağ said she personally wanted to attend the hearing in order to “look into the eyes of cruelty.”
“We have never been afraid to stand in front of oppression. They want to punish us because they can’t look us in the eye. They are making judges face us because they cannot do it themselves,” she said, adding she doesn’t regret her actions.
“I’m facing 100 years in jail! If I had a couple more lives, I would do the same things,” she added.
Noting that six million people voted for the HDP in elections, Yüksekdağ said all of the speeches included in the summary of proceedings against her were made in parliament.
“Didn’t you say ‘Do politics in the parliament’? Well, I said all of those words inside parliament” she said.
The court ruled for the continuation of Yüksekdağ’s arrest and adjourned the hearing until Sept. 18.
In addition to Yüksekdağ, 10 HDP lawmakers, including the party’s co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, are also in jail and face hundreds of years in prison over alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).