Selahattin Demirtas in an Istanbul courtroom on January 12, 2018. Photo: Rudaw
ISTANBUL, Turkey – Proceedings in the case of Selahattin Demirtas on charges of “insulting the president” have concluded for the day and will continue on May 17 in order to allow the court to consider a request from Demirtas challenging parliament’s decision to lift his immunity.
In May 2016, the parliament passed a law lifting immunity from a select group of 138 MPs, including Demirtas and many other HDP members. In court on Friday, Demirtas said the parliament acted contrary to the constitution and demanded the decision be cancelled.
"Now I have immunity as much as [Prime Minister] Binali Yildirim... [I] have to be tried in the constitutional court. I demand the movement of the case to the constitutional court," he said.
HDP, however, has slim hope of receiving a favourable decision from the court. Co-chair Serpil Kemalbay, making a speech in front of the courthouse, said that the court's decision is already pre-decided and is being dictated by Ankara. She claimed that the judge on Friday was reluctant when agreeing to consider Demirtas' request.
Demirtas, HDP's former presidential candidate, was brought from jail to a court in Istanbul on Friday. It is the first time the Kurdish leader has been allowed in a courtroom on one of the 95 cases against him, including supporting "terrorism" since he was detained in November 2016.
Photos showed a smiling Demirtas waving to people as he walked into the courtroom, surrounded by gendarmerie.
Please click the photo to see in full size.
Demirtas, 44, is facing the possibility of a long prison term on charges of terrorism and insulting the president, among others.
“Long live the resistance of prisoners,” chanted some among the over 1,000 people gathered outside the court in support of the jailed leader and HDP — the party he helped gain entry into the Turkish parliament for the first time in 2015.
“We are all here for HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas. We will not leave here until we take back the HDP co-chair and we demand his release,” said a young boy, while a woman said they will not abandon Demirtas “until death.”
“We will not accept this injustice. Down with fascism!” said another supporter.
One man was happy to speak to Rudaw in Kurdish. Speaking in Kurdish or using the word Kurdistan has gotten HDP deputies into trouble in the Turkish parliament.
“We want the restoration of peace to this region. If they do not release [Demirtas], they will have to take our corpses,” he said, calling on Kurds to “rise up.”
“Today is the day of unity. We want peace, we do not want war. Tayyip [Erdogan] does not want peace. He wants war,” he said.
Demirtas expressed that despite this being his third trial, this is the first time he was actually before a judge.
"Despite being tried at this hearing without arrest, I am presenting my defense under conditions of detention. I am facing a judge for the first time in 14 months," read an HDP tweet.
The politician wants to ask the judge if he truly has immunity, just as PM Binali Yildirim of the ruling AKP has.
"For instance, if I were to insult this court now, all you can do is to prepare proceedings and send it to Parliament," wrote HDP on Twitter.
He is jailed in Edirne Prison. Turkish officials had previously refused to bring him into the courtroom, claiming security concerns. Demirtas countered by not agreeing to link to the court room via teleconference.
The jailed but passionate leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP has revealed that he is not planning to run in future elections including in Turkey's next presidential election.
Demirtas said he would not run in the next elections in November 2019 during an interview with AFP published this week.
"I am not concerned about a political career. My only stance is to fight for democracy, freedom, human rights and peace," he said via written response to questions from AFP
Demirtas announced that he would resign ahead of the party's congress to be held on February 11.
"I am determined to defend this stance always and everywhere," he added. “That’s why I do not have plans to be a lawmaker, party chief or presidential candidate."
Demirtas, as the leader of the opposition People's Democratic Party, ran a passionate presidential campaign in 2014. He received nearly 10 percent of the votes, while the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party got nearly 52 percent. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who is now in the far-right MHP, obtained 38 percent of the vote running a "cross-party" campaign.
The charismatic politician has been dubbed Turkey’s Barack Obama because of his impassioned oratory.
The HDP describes itself as "democratic, pro-peace, pro-labor, pro-self-government party" that wants to guarantee gender equality and a green environment for everyone including the country's Kurdish and Alawite minorities.
Please click the photo to see in full size.
Demirtas, then co-chair Figen Yuksekdag and 10 other HDP MPs were detained in a round-up on November 4, 2016, as part of an investigation of supporting "terrorism" and Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Serpil Kemalbay replaced Yuksekdag as the party's female co-leader in May 2017, in accordance with its by-laws.
“Despite unfounded, unlawful and immoral accusations and attacks of dirty propaganda carried out from sources around the ruling party, we are neither separatists, nor terrorists,” Demirtas stated on January fourth when he announced his resignation as party co-leader.
Turkey’s political parties are positioning themselves for elections to be held in 2019. The country will hold local elections in March that year and presidential and parliamentary elections in November. This will be the first time people go to the polls since adopting constitutional amendments that strengthened the presidency in a referendum in April 2017.
Last updated at 5:18 pm