Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş made his first appearance in court today as part of a trial in which he is charged with insulting the president of Turkey, the bianet news website reported.
The İstanbul Bakırköy 38th Criminal Court of First Instance had ruled that Demirtaş attend the hearing in person rather than by teleconference from prison.
Two lawyers representing Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chairman and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were in the courtroom as well.
“Even though I am the defendant, I prepared my statement of defense while under arrest. This is an open violation of the right to a fair trial. I finally got the chance to appear before a judge for the first time in 14 months, in more than 20 legal cases brought against me. Ninety-seven hearings have been held. All those hearings were held in my absence or by the imposition on me of the Audio and Visual Information System (SEGBIS),” Demirtaş said in his defense statement.
Demanding that the case be referred to the Constitutional Court, Demirtaş argued that the cases were a violation of the legislative immunity granted to him through his lawmaker status.
“In order for a deputy to be tried, his or her parliamentary immunity must be duly lifted. If our immunity is lifted without a parliamentary decision, then it is not legitimate,” he said.
Demirtaş also pointed out that his arrest was not ordered as part of this particular case.
Security reasons had until now been cited as the reason for not bringing him to hearings in Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakır. Demirtaş had also refused to connect to the courtroom via SEGBİS.
His lawyers demanded that the case be referred to the Constitutional Court, and the judge adjourned proceedings until May 17, 2018 in order to assess the demands.
Demirtaş, who is currently in prison in the northwestern province of Edirne, is on trial for “insulting the president” in comments made regarding President Erdoğan on Dec. 24, 2015.