Selahattin Demirtaş, the former leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), said during a hearing on Jan. 7 that the Justice Ministry has been deliberately preventing his lawyers from accessing latest court proceedings and official documents that the court hearings refer to.
He said that court documents which he and his lawyers need to see prior to attending the hearings so that they can prepare ahead are never uploaded on the e-justice system of UYAP in advance. He said that the prosecutors on the other hand can easily access his files, including the updated versions.
“For example, if the expert's reports that you [court board] have just read had been uploaded on UYAP, the lawyers who visited me would have brought a copy of them to me, and then I would have read them and prepared accordingly…Therefore, as per the principle of the equality of arms principle, while the public prosecutor's office has a command over all the phases of my case file physically or through UYAP, my lawyers cannot reach it. An explicit obstruction is being implemented to my case file between two hearings,” he said.
Demirtaş made the comments while attending a three-day-long trial held at the Ankara 19th Heavy Penal Court. Demirtaş, currently imprisoned in the western province of Edirne, joined the hearing via the video conferencing system SEGBİS.
“While the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office and prosecutors subject to it can access all the case files about me very easily through just a clerk, can see all the documents that get into the case file in the courthouse, ... a physical constraint is being applied to my lawyers the moment the hearings start,” Demirtaş said.
He said that he has “suspicions and claims” that such an obstruction was undertaken by the instructions of the Justice Ministry, which he and his lawyers will try to “prove” in the future.
Demirtaş said that his lawyers' being unable to access the updated version of his case files started with the revision of the UYAP system. “It seems that the Demirtaş – [Figen] Yüksekdağ Desk which has been established both at the Presidency and Justice Ministry has been undertaking such an implementation,” Demirtaş said, in a quite explicit accusation that the government is interfering and hindering his and Figen Yüksekdağ's judicial processes. Yüksedağ is similarly a former leader of the HDP, who has been behind bars since November 2016.
“This is a violation of right to a fair trial. It is restricting the right of defense in an explicit way,” Demirtaş told the court.
The hearing was observed by HDP deputies Mithat Sancar, Mehmet Rüştü Tiryaki, Murat Çepni, Zeynel Özel, Tülay Hatimoğulları, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Socialist Party of Refoundation (SYKP) co-chair Canan Yüce as well as HDP executives.
Demirtaş is facing up to 142 years in prison on charges of “founding and managing an organization against the state,” “propaganda for an armed organization against the state” and “promoting crimes and criminals.”
The Ankara 19th Heavy Penal Court on Sept. 2, 2019 unanimously voted to rule Demirtaş to be released on probation, but the politician was not released due to a 4-year and 8-month prison term that was given to him by the Istanbul 26th Heavy Penal Court on Dec. 4, 2018, and approved by the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2018 ruled that Turkey violated the freedom of expression of Demirtaş, ordering his immediate release and stating that his further confinement without any new evidence would amount to continued violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.