Crime boss holding Turkey hostage with tripod, says jailed Kurdish politician

Turkey has become a country where elected political representatives are placed behind bars and no legal action is taken in the face of corruption and crime claims against government officials, jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş said on Wednesday.

“Today a mafia leader has effectively taken the Republic of Turkey hostage,” the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) cited its former co-chair as saying during a court hearing for an ongoing trial over hisalleged role in the  2014 Kobani protests.

“There has not been a peep out of the Ankara judiciary following the revelations, or allegations or confessions - whatever you choose to call it - over Süleyman Soylu,” Demirtaş said via closed-circuit camera system (SEGBİS), referring to claims of corruption levelled against the Turkish interior minister.

Exiled organised crime leader Sedat Peker has shaken up the country this month with a series of videos posted on his YouTube channel claiming that past and present government officials, including interior minister Soylu, are turning a blind eye to drug trafficking, among a string of other charges including murder, rape and corruption.

“But the Security General Directorate, which functions under the auspices of Süleyman Soylu’s ministry, can re-arrest 30 HDP officials, including myself, based on the fabricated witness statements of two or three people,” Demirtaş said.

Demirtaş was arrested in 2016 in the upheaval that followed a violent coup attempt and the collapse of a peace process between the state and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for four decades. 

Ankara has maintained years-long crackdown on the HDP, accusing the party of links to the PKK, which has been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, and had party officials jailed while ousting mayors from over 50 HDP municipalities since 2019.

If convicted, Demirtaş faces 142 years in the main trial against him in which he is accused of leading the Kobani protest between Oct. 6 and 8, 2014, which saw at least 34 people killed.

“We are behind bars while this man has revealed all of the filth of this system, this regime,” Demirtaş said, referring to Peker.