A supporter of Selahattin Demirtas hold a photo of the HDP leader outside the courthouse in Istanbul on Friday. Photo: Ozan Kose/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Selahattin Demirtas, the jailed co-chair of the pro-Kurdish HDP party in Turkey, is not giving up politics, despite his earlier announcement he is stepping down from the leadership position of the party, according to his lawyer.
“Demirtas did not say he will withdraw from politics. He only said that he will not run for the presidency in the February 11 congress of the party,” Aydin Erdogan, Demirtas’ lawyer, told Rudaw TV.
Demirtas, 44, announced earlier this month that he will not run for re-election as the co-chair of HDP. He said he made the decision so that HDP can “meet the new period of political struggle more powerfully.”
The Kurdish leader is facing up to 142 years in jail on charges such as “terrorism” and “insulting the president.” He appeared in a courtroom on Friday for the first time since his arrest on November 4, 2016.
He had refused to attend previous sessions via video link.
A crowd of people from different backgrounds gathered in front of the courthouse. A charismatic politician, Demirtas appealed not just to Kurds, but women, youth, and leftists.
“Not only HDP, other parties embrace a special connection and love for Demirtas,” said his lawyer.
“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.”
Proceedings in the case on charges of “insulting the president” 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 Turkish parliament voted to lift immunity from a select group of MPs, including many from the opposition HDP, so that they could face criminal proceedings.