Turkey pro-Kurdish leader, absent from 'terror' trial, to stay

Sergio Conner
December 7, 2017

An Ankara court ruled on Thursday to keep pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party's co-chair (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş behind bars.

According to Ayhan Bilgen, an HDP spokesperson, Demirtas was not allowed to attend the trial in person and he then refused to connect to the courtroom via a televised link.

In the preliminary assessment at the hearing, before Demirtaş's lawyers started making his defense, the prosecutor demanded a continuation of his imprisonment during the trial process. The court judges also refused to allow global and local observers to attend the hearing.

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Demirtas was arrested a year ago as the government launched a crackdown following a failed coup attempt, which critics say has been expanded to target all government opponents. Demirtas is widely seen as one of the most charismatic and effective political opponents to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Party co-leader Figen Yuksekdag appeared in court Wednesday on similar terrorism charges. At least 33 separate investigations have been launched against Demirtas over the past year. "It is all about his speeches, and for this he faces multi charges", she said.

The government alleges the HDP, which remains legal, has links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed group. The trial has adjourned until February and the judges ruled Demirtas will remain in prison.

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