Turkey: Former HDP leader denounces show trial as ‘political revenge’

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Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş. Image: Ercan Altuntas/Bianet

The show trial of 108 leaders, elected representatives and activists from the Peoples’ Democratic Party resumed for a day on May 18 after being delayed by a 17-day COVID-19 lockdown in Turkey. The defendants are accused of instigating violence and deaths because the HDP called for peaceful protests in solidarity with the town of Kobanî in north-east Syria when it was besieged by Islamic State terrorists in 2014.

The Turkish state violently attacked these peaceful protests and more than 50 people were killed by state security services and associated paramilitary groups in the process. HDP members are charged with 37 of these deaths, including protesters supporting Kobanî and the HDP.

According to by the HDP’s European office, imprisoned former HDP Co-Chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ made brief statements to the court via video link from prison before the hearing was adjourned to May 20.

Apart from Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ , 26 other defendants are in prison pending trial and there are judicial control measures on six and arrest warrants against another 75 defendants.

In his address to the court, Demirtaş said the wrong people are facing trial as the real perpetrators of the 2014 Kobanî violence were the instigators of this show trial.

“I am sorry that the politicians who made sacrifices for the peace, democracy and freedom of Turkey are sitting in defendants’ seats.

“This case is not the Kobanî Case; this case is a case of plot and political revenge targeting the HDP. The Kobanî Case will be filed one day and the real responsible parties, the ones who committed massacres and those who instigated them will be brought to light. But everyone must be sure about this: When that day comes, we will not be the ones sitting in defendants’ seats.”

He denounced the trial for being “purely political”.

“It is the first time in history that a political party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) – Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), is trying to put the HDP on trial.”

“In reality, there are no judges or prosecutors in this trial. [President, AKP Chair Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, [MHP Chair Devlet] Bahçeli and [Minister of Interior Süleyman] Soylu sit in the seat of the judge, while the pro-government media and troll army sit in the seat of the prosecutor. Parties compete against one another at the Parliament, at squares, at the ballot box.

“Even in the most fascistic periods, no party entered the courtroom in judge robes. We will not let people’s will be crushed in this case of plot. I say the following to the society of Turkey: The wheel is going to turn!”

Demirtaş protested at not being allowed to have an attorney by his side and requested recusal, that is, that the judges and prosecution step aside because they were not impartial. This court “cannot judge independently in the current conditions,” he said, and asked for the case to be adjourned to July 2023, after the next Turkish elections.

Yüksekdağ agreed with this request for recusal, adding that it is impossible for this court “to bring the responsible ones to account for the lives that were claimed”.

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