Jailed opposition leader Demirtaş appears in court to face charges

Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed co-leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), appeared in court to face charges against him in person for the first time on Friday, the BBC said.

Demirtaş faces possibly decades in jail on a string of terrorism-related charges and has been held in detention since parliament lifted his immunity from prosecution and he was then arrested on Nov 4, 2016.

Demirtaş, a trained lawyer, has so far refused to participate in court hearings via video link, saying that would violate his right to a fair trial.

The hearing on Friday was related to a speech Demirtaş made in December 2015, in which prosecutors say he insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. If he is found guilty of this charge, Demirtaş faces four years in jail.

“I would like to ask, do I, or don't I have parliamentary immunity at the present moment?” his party’s Twitter account quoted Demirtaş as asking the Istanbul court. “Of course I do, at least as much as PM Binali Yıldırım. For instance, if I were to insult this court now, all you can do is to prepare proceedings and send it to parliament.”

The judge ordered an adjournment in the trial until May 17 when the court would assess the defendant’s motion for an interim decision.