Jailed Kurdish politician Demirtaş defies court, accuses judges of partiality

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A woman holds pictures of former leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party HDP Selahattin Demirtas, in jail for a year and a half, and HDP candidate for the upcoming presidential election, during a rally on May 4, 2018 in Besiktas district of Istanbul. Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) launched its campaign for June 24 elections, as other opposition parties indicated they were set to join forces in an unprecedented alliance against incumbent president. / AFP PHOTO / Yasin AKGUL

Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former co-chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), in his defense on Wednesday challenged the court and accused the judges of taking the side of the Turkish government in a case against him.

On Nov. 20 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recommended the release of the Kurdish politician from pretrial detention, the length of which it said could not be justified. However, upon remarks by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticizing the ECtHR, Demirtaş was kept in prison.

“You asked the Ministry of Justice how to act on the ECtHR verdict,” Demirtaş told the court in Sincan, according to a report by the Evrensel daily. He underlined the fact that the Ministry of Justice was the defendant in the ECtHR case and that he was the plaintiff.

Demirtaş accused the court of being partial and said that to make a decision on the ECtHR verdict, the court waited to see the reaction of the government.

“You clearly took a side by following the opinion of an institution that was a party in my case,” Demirtaş said.in front of a large audience in the courtroom.

Challenging the court, the popular Kurdish politician said he never asked for his release from the court in this particular case since it was not the court that had imprisoned him, a veiled reference to the political nature of his arrest.

“I am not a detainee here, but a political prisoner,” Demirtaş pointed out and said that even if he remains in jail until he is 90 years of age, he will not demand his release from the judges. Demirtaş is currently 45.

The Kurdish politician, who twice ran against Erdoğan in presidential elections, is accused of links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Demirtaş started his defense today in his mother tongue, Kurdish, and condemned the isolation of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

While Demirtaş underlined the political nature of his imprisonment, he also said in an effort to falsify accusations against him that the evidence used in the indictment was prepared by people who are currently accused of membership in the faith-based Gülen movement, which is also labeled a terrorist organization by the regime in Turkey.

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