An Ankara court has ruled for the continuation of the imprisonment of former pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (DHP) co-leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ on charges related to 2014 Kobane riots.
Jailed since 2016, Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ have been convicted on other charges and still face additional charges, but one of the primary reasons for their arrest was their alleged role in sparking the Kobane riots, which left over 30 people dead.
The riots broke out in October 2014 in southeastern Turkey after Turkish Kurds were angry at what they perceived as the Turkish government allowing ISIS to besiege the Syrian Kurdish border city of Kobane.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan later accused Demirtaş of calling people to take to the streets and pitting rival Kurdish groups against one another.
Indictment still not prepared one year later after launch of investigation
The Kobane investigation was launched in 2014 and reopened in 2019, and has failed to produce an indictment for Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ since. “Five-six years have passed since the incident that is the subject of the investigation, but no indictment has been produced yet; reasonable time has surpassed,” Lawyer Levent Kanat said in a defense submitted to the court.
Kanat said that new charges were brought against the former HDP co-leaders over the same incident to make sure that the politicians remain in prison. “It is against the law for the incident which had been already the subject of the judiciary to be turned into new charges and a new investigation,” he said.
“My clients’ basic rights and freedoms, especially the right to personal liberty and safety, as well as the right to a fair trial, continue to be violated,” Kanat said.
Lawyer Kenan Maçoğlu said that they have not been able to hold a meeting with the prosecutor for the last eight months. “What we have been told is that the indictment is still being prepared for the last eight months. This situation on this own shows how arbitrary this investigation is,” Maçoğlu said.
In September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in favor of releasing Demirtaş, but an Istanbul court approved a 4 year, 8 month prison sentence against him in December of that year, ensuring that he remained behind bars.
Lawyer Mahsuni Karaman said that Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ are being held in prison at the direct orders of Erdoğan, and has referred to Demirtaş as a hostage. Demirtaş’ own Twitter account’s bio section simply reads “political hostage.”