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Jailed Kurdish leader sentenced to 30 months for allegedly targeting prosecutor

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Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on conviction of targeting the public prosecutor who indicted him along with 107 other Kurdish politicians due to their alleged role in deadly 2014 protests in southeastern Turkey.

Demirtaş was charged with threatening and targeting a public official who was part of the fight against terrorism due to his remarks while presenting a defense at an Ankara court against prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman, who had ordered the detention of 82 Kurdish politicians in September 2020.

Kocaman filed a complaint against Demirtaş because the Kurdish leader accused him of drafting an indictment against him and the other Kurdish politicians in disregard of the principles of law.

On Jan. 7, a Turkish court accepted an indictment naming 108 people including jailed politicians Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, both former co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), in relation to the Kobani protests of 2014, seeking punishment for the suspects on various charges including 37 cases of homicide and disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state.

The protests broke out against the Turkish army’s inaction in the face of an Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) offensive against the largely Kurdish northern Syrian town of Kobani.

“I will not let anyone not face consequences of their actions. An accounting will be sought,” Demirtaş said at the time, referring to Kocaman, who was the Ankara chief public prosecutor at the time.

His remarks were interpreted as threating the prosecutor; however, Demirtaş said during Friday’s hearing that he had no intention of threatening the prosecutor and that what he meant was settling accounts with him in court.

The jailed politician described the trial as a “plot” against him and accused the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of stepping up pressure on its critics and opponents through orders to the judiciary.

Kocaman came to public attention in Turkey when he visited President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at his presidential palace with his bride on his wedding day and received gifts there in September 2020.

The visit has is viewed as an indication of the current state of judicial independence, or lack thereof.

Shortly after the visit, he was appointed as a member of the country’s Supreme Court of Appeals by Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK).

Turkey has kept Demirtaş, who has been behind bars since November 2016, in prison despite rulings from the European Court of Human Rights that called for his immediate release in 2018 and December 2020 as part of another case.

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