January 17, 2017
Turkish prosecutors Tuesday demanded up to 142 years in prison for the leader of the country’s main pro-Kurdish party, in a case that has intensified concerns over freedom of expression.
Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-leader Selahattin Demirtas was detained in November on charges of links to Kurdish militants.
The charismatic Demirtas — who stood against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2014 elections — was detained along with another nine HDP lawmakers and his female co-leader Figen Yuksekdag.
Prosecutors in the Kurdish-majority southeastern city of Diyarbakir in the same indictment asked that Yuksekdag serves up to 83 years in jail, the state-run Anadolu news agency added.
The MPs are charged with links with and membership of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an armed insurrection against the Turkish state since 1984.
But Demirtas, as well as the other MPs, has denied having any links to the PKK and denounced the case as political.
Demirtas, a human rights lawyer, has emerged as a key political opposition actor dubbed the “Kurdish Obama”, leading the HDP to an unprecedented political breakthrough in June 2015 parliamentary polls, weakening the standing of Erdogan’s party.
He also attracted votes from secular Turks, who opposed Erdogan’s rule. Detractors however said he failed to distance himself from the PKK.