Turkish authorities have filed a fresh lawsuit against Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been jailed since 2016 on a string of terrorism charges accusing him of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Prosecutors have cited as “evidence” Demirtaş’s speeches conducted between 2012-2016, an interview he gave to Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Sept. 3, 2016, a complaint filed against him at the Presidency’s Communications Center (CİMER) and a photograph taken at Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, where the PKK is headquartered, Mezopotamya news agency reported on April 21.
Demirtaş had in previous hearings told the court that his visit to the Qandil Mountains was undertaken with the “government’s full knowledge, support and approval” as part of a short-lived peace process between Turkey and the PKK.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its western allies.
“The photographs taken in Qandil were distributed with approval from the government. Because these photographs were signs that this [peace] process was being handled seriously,” Demirtaş had previously said.
This is the fifth indictment filed against Demirtaş on “terrorism” charges. The Ankara 17th Heavy Penal Court has accepted the indictment, and the first hearing of the new case will be held on July 14.
Demirtaş’s speeches referred to in the indictment consist of his speech during the 2nd Extraordinary Congress of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in 2012 and his speech during the HDP’s 2nd Ordinary Congress in 2016.
The indictment said that Demirtaş referred to politicians who were held in custody as part of a Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) trial as “political hostages” during the BDP congress and this consisted of “making propoganda” on behalf of the PKK.
The KCK is an umbrella political organisation to which the PKK and other allied Kurdish armed groups in Syria, Iran and Iraq belong.
The indictment also gave place to Demirtaş’s speech during HDP’s congress, saying his criticism of the central government and of its practice of implementing curfews in southeastern Turkey during the fighting between Turkish military forces and the PKK served the “purpose of separating a part of Turkish Republic’s lands.”
Another “evidence” cited against Demirtaş was his interview in Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. Demirtaş had told the German newspaper: “We do not define the PKK as a terrorist organization; but we name its actions targeting civilians as terror. I have thousands times said that we do not approve of the PKK’s violence, and we are absolutely not the PKK’s political arm. But we do not have to define the PKK as the government and state are defining.”
Demirtaş’s remarks were again considered as “terror propaganda” by prosecutors. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government accuse the HDP of having links to the PKK, but the HDP – Turkey’s second largest opposition party – denies such links.