Feb 14 2018

Jailed pro-Kurd former leader calls on judges to save Turkish democracy

A Turkish former opposition leader on trial on terrorism charges said in his defence that Turkish democracy could only be saved by the judiciary, left-wing newspaper Evrensel said.

“Parliament is scared, the judiciary needs to be brave,” Selahattin Demirtaş told a court near Ankara. “That is the only way there can be supervision.”

“Every day they issue (new) laws. They are trying to make constitutional changes while we, who have the people’s will with us, are left to watch them from a cell. We are watching, and the judiciary is watching.”

Not watching were a large number of foreign diplomats and human rights group representatives, who were shut out of the courtroom by a last-minute decision to limit the number of spectators to 20.

The former head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the third biggest party in the last election in 2015, has been jailed for 15 months and faces possible sentences of up to 142 years in jail on a range of terrorism charges.

“They needed to criminalise the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in order to make their constitutional changes,” Demirtaş said. “Within one-and-a-half years they have judicially arrested around 3,000 HDP (officials). Did the HDP suddenly decide to start committing crimes or did the judiciary all of a sudden take a decision about the HDP?”

The former lawyer said he had did not face a fair trial.

“Up until now I have not seen the slightest hint that I will be tried justly,” he said. “Not a single action has been taken regarding evidence that is in my favour.”

In addition, he said, there was a co-ordinated campaign against him in the Turkish media.

“If this number of news items had written that Demirtaş was an alien, everyone would have believed that I was an alien,” he said.