HDP co-chair Demirtaş’s statements ‘exceed freedom of expression limits,’ court says

HDP co-chair Demirtaş’s statements ‘exceed freedom of expression limits,’ court says

HDP co-chair Demirtaş’s statements ‘exceed freedom of expression limits,’ court says

AFP photo

Statements by the jailed Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş “go beyond freedom of expression,” a court ruled on March 13. 

The Second Criminal Court of First Instance in the Doğubeyazıt district of the eastern province of Ağrı, which previously sentenced Demirtaş to five years in prison in the case, said describing the actions of the government as “government terror” cannot be considered within the boundaries of freedom of expression.

“The suspect’s description of the actions and policies of the government, which reflects the will of the people through the votes of the electorate, as ‘government terror’ far exceeds the right to freedom of expression and parliamentary criticism,” the court stated on March 13, adding that “freedom of expression is not unlimited.”

The court on Feb. 21 sentenced Demirtaş, who was arrested on Nov. 4, 2016, to five months in prison for “Openly humiliating the Turkish people, the republic and parliament” by using the term “government terror” in a speech made during the Nevruz celebrations on March 19, 2016. 

In its justification, the court stated that “the boundaries of the freedom of expression are as important as the right itself.” 

“There are similar regulations in the laws of Austria, Germany, Denmark, Italy and Spain,” it added. 

The court also noted that the crowd where Demirtaş was speaking was chanting slogans on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan. 

“The fact that the suspect didn’t act to prevent those slogans chanted on behalf of a terrorist group, while accusing the legitimate constitutional government of carrying out terrorist activities, constitutes the crime of ‘openly humiliating the government,’” the court added. 

Demirtaş’s lawyers have appealed against the sentence. 

Meanwhile, fellow jailed HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ, who was also arrested on Nov. 4, 2016, has given her testimony in a case into her statements regarding the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). 

“We rely on the YPG,” Yüksekdağ had said on July 20, 2015, over which a complaint was filed based on “making propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization and being a member of an armed terrorist group.”

Yüksekdağ, who is in jail in the northwestern province of Kocaeli, gave her testimony to the court in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa via video link.

“If they [the government] had formed a healthy relationship with the PYD, which they have branded as terrorists, none of the losses would have happened today. Turkey has no ally left that it can rely on,” she said.