Written by Margaret Owen, International Trial Observer and Barrister
Friday 7 September
I was informed that Selahattin Demirtas (pictured), the imprisoned former co-chair of the pro Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), would at last be appearing in person for this final, 6th hearing. Selahattin Demirtas has been detained since November 2016 under anti-terror law. He faces various charges and is accused of making terrorist propaganda. Demirtas’ co-defendant is the HDP MP for Ankara, Siri Surreya Onder, who will also be present at the hearing.
I travelled to Istanbul to report on the trial as an International Observer from the UK. Outside the Silivri prison compound I expected to find crowds of Demirtas/HDP supporters. Upon my arrival at the prison however, it was eerily quiet, as apart from a sizeable police presence, I found only a few hundred supporters, and soon discovered that Demirtas himself would not be there in person after all; he would be delivering his defence to the terrorism charges via video link.”Look”, said one female supporter, pointing to the sky. “You see the drone. The police want to identify who is here outside the court so they can investigate us for supporting terrorism”. It was the first time I had seen a drone, like a black insect in the peaceful blue sky.
At the entrance to the court I was joined by a few other international observers, from the Canadian, Swiss and Dutch embassies. The nature of this trial would reflect the status of Turkey’s justice system since Erdogan won the 2018 Presidential election, in which Demirtas also stood as a candidate from his prison cell. It’s a significant event.