Trial begins for HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas

by The Region   Getty Images  


On Thursday, the trial for the co-leader of Turkey's pro-minorities party, Selahettin Demirtas, began. He is being accused of having links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The Turkish State says that he faces up to 142 years in prison on two charges: "managing a terror organisation" and "making propaganda for a terror group." Critics of the Erdogan regime, however, believe that these accusations are a facade covering an attempt by the ruling AKP (Justice and Development party) to stifle its critics.   

His trial took place at Sincan prison complex in Ankara. Demirtas was not present. He is being held in Edirne, in the northwest of Turkey. Alongside Demirtas, nine HDP members of parliament are still being held in prison, including former co-chair Figen Yuksekdag. 

Before being imprisoned, Selahattin Demirtas was one of Erdogan's biggest rivals. His skills in oratory were matched to none and as one AFP columnist put it, his charisma was comparable to "the firebrand Turkish head of state."

In June 2015, he led the Peoples' Democratic Party, a pro-Kurdish, pro-minorities, and pro-LGBT party to surpass the 10 percent threshold for entering parliament. The HDP won the support of many Kurds, Turkish leftists and liberals. It also played a monumental role in trying to broker peace between the PKK and the Turkish Government, both of whom entered into a peace process starting in 2012.

On July 29th however, then deputy prime minister Yalcin Akdogan said on television that the attempt by Demirtas and the HDP to stand up to Erdogan's ambition for a presidential system was an attack on the peace process itself. Since then, some commentators have believed that the HDP, and Demirtas, are being punished for threatening the political objectives of the ruling AKP.