Turkish court adjourns Demirtaş’s trial proceedings until May

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In this handout photo provided by the pro-Kurdish Peoples's Democratic Party (HDP), former party leader Selahattin Demirtas sits in prison in Edirne on May 4, 2018. Demirtaş has been behind bars since November 2016, is in prison accused of links to outlawed Kurdish rebels and is facing a 142-year sentence. / AFP PHOTO / Kurdish Peoples's Democratic Party (HDP) / HANDOUT

An Ankara high criminal court hearing the trial of jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş on Thursday adjourned proceedings until May 27-28, the T24 news website reported.

The trial is a combination of 33 different cases against the Kurdish politician, who is facing terrorism-related charges.

Demirtaş made his statements in the session that started on Tuesday via the IT Voice and Image System (SEGBİS) from a prison in Edirne where he is being held.

During the hearing Demirtaş notably addressed the escalation of violence in 2015 in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast.

“Nearly 120 people. They were all burned,” Demirtaş said, referring to allegations that many local residents were trapped in basements during clashes in Şırnak province and lost their lives as a result of indiscriminate violence perpetrated by Turkish security forces.

“I am not talking about Hitler’s ovens in the 1940s. This happened in Cizre. Yet you are prosecuting us for terrorism over our comments,” Demirtaş went on to say.

The former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has been behind bars since November 2016.

In September 2018 he was found guilty of disseminating terrorist propaganda in another case for which he was handed down a prison sentence of four years, eight months.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in November of the same year that Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was a political act and ordered his release. Turkish courts refused to implement the ECtHR ruling, and a regional appeals court in Turkey on Dec. 4 upheld his sentence for disseminating terrorist propaganda.

Last December the 46-year-old Kurdish politician had to be taken to a university hospital due to his deteriorating health, specifically chest pain and difficulty breathing.

HDP politicians are often accused by government officials of having ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed insurgent group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey as well as the European Union and the US.

Many HDP politicians are charged with “spreading propaganda on behalf of terrorist groups,” on account of their remarks.

A recent report written by the HDP said Turkey’s Interior Ministry removed 32 elected Kurdish mayors from office and detained a total of 4,567 party members in 2019.

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