German FM invites jailed Turkish opposition leader to convention
AA photoGerman Foreign Minister and Social Democratic Party (SPD) Chairman Sigmar Gabriel has invited Selahattin Demirtaş, a co-chair of the Turkish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who is currently in jail pending trial in Turkey, to the Berlin convention of the Progressive Alliance – a Socialist International network – in a symbolic gesture, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) reported Feb. 7.
Gabriel’s SPD announced the invitation officially and HDP deputy co-chair Hişar Özsoy said the letter from the minister was conveyed to Demirtaş through his lawyers. Making a statement to German daily Bild, Özsoy thanked Gabriel and added that a delegation from his party, including him, would participate in the convention on behalf of Demirtaş and would convey a letter from Demirtaş.
DW said the invitation from Gabriel could further strain relations between Germany and Turkey. The relations between two NATO allies have become increasingly problematic, especially following German officials’ statements last week that they would execute regular procedures for the asylum application of 40 Turkish NATO soldiers who are suspected members of the Gülenist network instead of fast-tracking their deportation as demanded by Ankara. The Gülenist network is widely believed to have orchestrated the July 15, 2016, coup attempt in Turkey.
Demirtaş and the HDP’s other co-chair, Figen Yüksekdağ, have been arrested for over three months as part of a terror probe opened against them.
The party’s 55 deputies, 12 of whom are currently under arrest, face a cumulative total of 3,126 years in jail and 18 life terms on various terrorism-related offensives.
The deputies’ immunities were lifted in June 2016 by the parliament, and some 501 files prepared against them later resulted in criminal cases on 645 different offenses.
Turkish prosecutors have demanded 486 years in jail and two life terms for Demirtaş.