Turkish prosecutors have demanded up to a 143-year jail sentence for Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP, party and 83 years for the other co-leader, Figen Yuksekdag, according to media reports on January 17. The minimum sentences the Turkish prosecutors demanded are 43 years prison for Demirtas and 30 years for Yuksekdag.
The HDP is the third largest political grouping in parliament with 59 seats. Since taking over as president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become increasingly authoritarian, but has taken things to a new level by arresting parliamentary opposition leaders, after lifting their parliamentary immunity and accusing them of “terrorism”.
Turkish prosecutors accused Demirtas of “managing a terrorist organization”, “making terrorist propaganda”, “inciting people to violence and hatred”, and “praising crime and the criminal”, while Yuksekdag was accused of “opposing the meeting and rally law”, “inciting people to violence and hatred”, and “provoking people to commit crimes”, Hurriyet Daily News reported on January 17.
Demirtas and Yuksekdag were arrested on November 4 and they have been jailed pending trial since then. HDP’s many MPs, local municipality heads and thousands of members are also in jail. Another prosecutor demanded a 103-year jail sentence for Nursel Aydogan, one of the jailed HDP deputies, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
The HDP, the main Kurdish legal political movement, attracted a record 13.1% of votes at the general elections held in June 2015, but has been under pressure from both sides after a two-year ceasefire between the Kurdish PKK guerillas and the government ended in July 2015.
The government sees the HPD as the political arm of the PKK, which has been fighting against the state since the mid-1980s. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU. The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people. Violence in the country’s southeast have flared and clashes between security forces and the PKK have intensified after the collapse of the ceasefire. The government refuses to return to negotiations, vowing to eliminate all the militants of the PKK.
In May 2016, the parliament voted to strip all lawmakers of their immunity. Following the measure, several HDP deputies were summoned to testify in terror-related investigations but they refused to appear before the authorities.
HDP claims that lifting its MPs’ parliamentary immunity was against the constitution and it applied to the constitutional court to reverse the law. However, the constitutional court has not announced any response to the HDP’s application, although it is obliged to announce its ruling within 20 days, Sirri Sureyya Onder, another HDP MP who is accused in the same case with Demirtas, recently asserted during a speech in parliament.
The main opposition CHP also voted in favour of lifting the parliamentary immunities, with the aim of inhibiting Erdogan from accusing CHP of supporting “terrorism”. CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said in a televised interview that they voted in favour of lifting parliamentary immunities since they were confident that the constitutional court would abolish the law.
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