Kurdish leader Demirtas appears in court for first time in 14 months

HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtas

Istanbul – Jailed Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş appeared before Turkish court in Istanbul on Jan. 12 for the first time, 14 months after his detention.

Demanding the case be referred to the Constitutional Court, Demirtaş argued that the cases were a violation of the legislative immunity granted to him through his lawmaker status.

Demirtaş, who is currently in prison in the northwestern province of Edirne, was being tried for “insulting Turkish dictator Erdogan” in comments he made regarding Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 24, 2015.

The hearing was part of just one of over 20 cases filed against the Kurdish issue-focused HDP co-chair, and over 90 hearings have been held in cases against him in his absence.

Demirtaş was imprisoned on Nov. 4, 2016 over alleged charges related to “terrorism”. The first hearing of that case took place on Dec. 7, 2017.

Security reasons had until now been cited as the reason for not bringing him to hearings in Istanbul, Ankara or Diyarbakır. Demirtaş had also refused to connect to the courtroom via SEGBİS, an audiovisual system.

Giving his first statement after 14 months behind bars, Demirtaş stressed the judicial immunity granted to him by his status as an MP, stating that the legislative processes for these 20 cases had not been implemented at the same time.

Demirtaş also noted that he was not ordered to be arrested as part of this particular case.

“I had the chance to appear before the judge for the first time in 14 months for more than 20 legal suits brought against me. Some 97 hearings had been held about me. All of those hearings were either held in my absence or SEGBİS was imposed upon me,” said Demirtaş in the courtroom.

“In order for a lawmaker to be tried, his or her parliamentary immunity must be lifted at the same time. If our immunity is lifted without a parliamentary decision, then it is not legitimate,” he added.

His lawyers demanded the case be referred to the Constitutional Court and the court judge later adjourned the case to May 17, 2018 in order to evaluate the demands.