Jailed HDP co-chair Demirtaş does not attend hearing after refusing to be handcuffed
ANKARAThe jailed co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, did not attend a hearing of his trial on July 7 after refusing to be handcuffed.
Demirtaş has been kept in a prison in the northwestern province of Edirne since Nov. 4, 2016, and his request to attend the hearing in Ankara was accepted on June 30.
According to a statement released by the HDP, Demirtaş was in the vehicle that was going to take him to Ankara when he was told that he would be handcuffed at around 3:40 a.m.
He then reportedly spoke with the Gendarmerie Squad Commander and warden on duty and told them that he would not go to the hearing if they insisted on handcuffing him.
“Demirtaş said he is still a lawmaker, his immunity is ongoing, and he would not go to the hearing if he was handcuffed. After the commander told him they would not be able to take him without handcuffs, Demirtaş replied that he is a lawmaker elected by will of the people,” the statement released from the HDP read.
It added that the jailed co-chair returned to his cell at around 4:10 a.m.
Demirtaş is in prison on terror charges and faces dozens of years in jail if convicted. He has been participating in the hearings in several provinces through the voice and video informatics system (SEGBİS), but requested to be physically present for the one in the capital.
In addition to Demirtaş, former HDP co-chair and lawmaker Figen Yüksekdağ and nine deputies from the HDP are also jailed on charges of terrorism and face hundreds of years in prison.
The HDP also shared a statement issued by Demirtaş after the incident, in which he said he had previously told his lawyers that he would not accept being handcuffed.
“I’m still a lawmaker with ongoing immunity. I represent the people’s will. I find it illegal and immoral to be handcuffed for a journey that will last for hours,” he stated, adding that “his right to a fair trial was prevented.”
“In a case in which I’m tried under arrest, the day of the hearing is still undetermined even though eight months have passed. We will resist injustice in every circumstance and will protect the honor of the people’s will that we represent,” he said.
In Ankara, meanwhile, strict security measures were taken in front of the Ankara Courthouse for the hearing scheduled to be held in the Ankara 35th Penal Court of First Instance. Water cannons were deployed to the area and the entrance and exits leading to the courthouse were blocked to both pedestrians and vehicles. Physical searches were also carried out on those entering the courthouse.
A statement was released by the HDP lawmakers gathered in front of the security point, with HDP spokesperson Osman Baydemir saying the government is “initiating the darkest period in history.”
Elsewhere, Demirtaş penned a letter to jailed journalist Ahmet Şık on July 7.
“My dear brother Ahmet, you and I weren’t arrested. We were taken hostages after being forcefully abducted from our houses. In order to make those outside be submissive they want to use us as hostages.
However, these immoral politics came from nothing from the very first day. We won’t make ourselves small by begging for mercy from fascism and the millions outside won’t surrender to fear,” Demirtaş said in his letter published by daily Cumhuriyet.
Şık was jailed as part of the controversial Oda TV case in 2011. He spent more than a year in prison while awaiting trial before the publication of his book, titled “The Imam’s Army,” which exposed sympathizers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen in the security services. He was eventually freed on March 12, 2012.
He was again arrested on charges of terrorism on Dec. 30, 2016 over several tweets and articles for daily Cumhuriyet.