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1ST LEAD Trial on terror charges of pro-Kurdish party leader starts in Turkey By dpa correspondents

Europe
07.12.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Istanbul (dpa) - The trial on terrorism charges of Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of Turkey‘s main pro-Kurdish party, began in Ankara on Thursday, without the defendant in the courtroom.

Demirtas, 44, the co-chair of the Peoples‘ Democratic Party (HDP), is accused of a number of crimes, including founding a terrorist organization and sedition. He faces up to 142 years in jail.

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

The trial has caught international attention, with senior politicians in Germany urging Demirtas‘ release.

He is "an elected parliamentarian, who has had his work as a representative systematically blocked by the Turkish state," according to a joint statement from Bundestag vice president Thomas Opperman and leaders of far-left Die Linke and the Greens.

They described the case as "clearly politically motivated," an accusation also made by the HDP itself.

In June 2015, the HDP became the first Kurdish party in the country‘s history to pass the 10-per-cent electoral threshold and enter parliament.

Demirtas is a staunch critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A number of HDP members of parliament are in jail and thousands of party members have been arrested. The government alleges the HDP, which remains legal, has links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers‘ Party (PKK), an armed group. HDP says it is independent.

Shortly after the June 2015 election, a peace process between the state and the PKK fell apart and violence restarted.

 

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