January 13, 2018 / 01:11 AM
Demirtas makes first court appearance in 14 months

The head of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition on Friday made his first public appearance since his arrest 14 months ago, standing before an Istanbul court on charges of insulting President Tayyip Erdogan.

Selahattin Demirtas, a former human rights lawyer and the co-head of the Kurdish-rooted Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), parliament’s third-largest party, had criticized Erdogan in a speech in December 2015, saying the president had “fluttered from corridor to corridor” during a conference in Paris, Reuters reported.

Demirtas, who won votes beyond his Kurdish core constituency in recent elections, faces up to four years in jail on the charges of insulting Erdogan. He faces 142 years in a different case on terrorism charges.

The HDP denies authorities’ accusations of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting government forces in southeastern Turkey since 1984. The group is deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and Europe.

The court has not allowed Demirtas to attend hearings for the other cases citing security reasons, and he has refused to take part via video link.

On Friday he gave a brief statement to the court, objecting to the government’s removal of the parliamentary immunity that he enjoyed as a lawmaker, which exempted him from investigation or prison while in office, according to the HDP.

Hundreds of supporters gathered across the street from the courthouse, chanting “Selahattin Demirtas is our pride,” and “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism”.

In addition to Demirtas, nine other HDP members are detained, including its other co-leader, Figen Yuksekdag. They are mostly accused of links to the PKK. All deny the charges.

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