The Trial of Selahattin Demirtas: An Eye Witness Account.

On the evening of the 7th of September 2018 at around 7.30pm having returned to my hotel room in Istanbul I happened to have a news channel on. I noticed as part of the headline news feed running across at the bottom of the screen, the following; “former co-chair of the HDP (Peoples Democratic Party) Sellahattin Demirtas has been sentenced to 4 years and 8 months for the propaganda of a “terrorist” organisation. There was no other commentary about it apart from this simple banner.

What was interesting about this method of reporting was that it deliberately gave no room for context and or analysis for the piece of “news” in question. Based on the backdrop of a complete media embargo on reporting the various prosecutions against Mr. Demirtas it is difficult to therefore regard this as ‘news’. It was rather a continuation of the campaign to criminalise the former pro-Kurdish leader of the HDP, the third largest political party in Turkey and through him an entire people. Unfortunately, this level of misinformation and deployed methods of criminalisation is exactly how the Kurdish civil society movement for peace and human rights is being marginalised by being portrayed as the criminal “other”. My immediate thoughts about the banner ‘news’ was how it completely resonated with the Courts approach and the injustices that we personally observed. Continue reading

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Final Trial of Selahattin Demirtas and MP Sirri Onder At the Silivri Prison Compound Court

Selahattin-Demirtas

 

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.

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HDP Statement on the Demirtas and Onder Verdict, plus the text of the Demirtas speech, which was used in the indictment against him.

To the attention of the Press;

A court has ruled in the case of our former Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş as well as our 26th term Member of Parliament Sırrı Süreyya Önder that brought charges related to the role they played in the peace and solution process. Demirtaş was sentenced to four years and eight months imprisonment, while Önder was sentenced to three years and six months.
The case itself, as well as the verdict released today, is not rooted in law, but is a political verdict. This decision is a clear sign of the government’s politics, which are anti-peace and insist on war. Continue reading

Fifth Demirtas Hearing Takes Place Two Weeks Before Election

Written by Margaret Owen (pictured), International Trial Observer and Barrister

Margaret 2018
Friday 8th June

I have returned to Istanbul in order to observe the fifth hearing of the trial of former HDP co-chair: Selahattin Demirtas. Given that Turkey’s presidential election is only two weeks away, we the international observers, anticipate a final verdict.Selahattin Demirtas has been detained since November 2016 in Edirne prison under anti-terror law. He faces numerous charges and is accused of making terrorist propaganda.
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Further Updates from the Trials of Selahattin Demirtas

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Demirtas

 

Written by Margaret Owen, International Trial Observer and Barrister

Monday 16th AprilMorning in Istanbul starts cold and cloudy. The HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) members collect my UK solicitor colleague, Ali Has, and myself at 7 am from our hotel, for the long drive to the Silivri prison complex. On the way we pick up the Assyrian Swedish MP, Yilmaz Kerimo, vice-chair of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, and further along the route we collect one of Demirtas’ top Lawyers, Ramzan Demir.

 

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The Continual Trials of Selahattin Demirtas

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Demirtas

Written by Margaret Owen, International Trial Observer and Barrister

Sunday 15 April

My last blog on 13th February reported that the case of Selahattin Demirtas, the former co-chair of Turky’s HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party), had been adjourned until 11th April. With his parliamentary immunity removed, Demirtas faces many separate indictments and trials under Turkey’s Anti Terror Laws. In February, before a court in Akara he had eloquently conducted his own defence, (see previous blogs) but as his request for bail was refused, he remained in custody at Evirne prison.

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The threat to Turkish democracy – Paul Maskey MP

On early December 2017 I joined an international delegation to observe trials the Turkish government had brought against leaders of the HDP (Peoples Democratic Party). The party’s co-chairs Ms. Figen Yüksekdağ and Mr. Selahattin Demirtaş were tried on 6th and 7th December respectively.

Throughout the delegation, which consisted of representatives from over a dozen countries, our contact with leading HDP officials was frequent. Deputy Chair, Mr. Hişyar Özsoy MP, was responsible for the general coordination of the international delegation. Continue reading

The Trial of Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtas

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IMG_1939

Blog post from International Trial Observer and Barrister Margaret Owen (pictured)

Wednesday, December 6

Ms Figen Yüksekdağ is charged, under the Anti Terror Law, with inciting violence, making propaganda for a terrorist organisation ( PKK)  and establishing and managing a terrorist organisation. These accusations were made on the basis of speeches she had made, as an elected MP, both inside and outside parliament between 2011 and 2015. Figen, as an elected member of parliament, and co chair of a legal political party, was simply doing her job. It was absurd to allege that her speeches were promoting terrorism. There is no evidence that she organised or is a member of a terror group.

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Joint Statement on behalf of the International Observers Delegation to the trial of Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag

6th – 7th December 2017

 We the undersigned make this declaration to serve as a joint statement on behalf of all members of the international observes delegation that have arrived here in Ankara to observe and objectively report on the trial of the two HDP (Peoples Democratic Party’s) Co-Chair’s Sellahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.

 Mrs. Yuksekdag and Mr. Demirtas were arrested and detained in prison since last November, 2016. Numerous charges have been brought against them relating to alleged “terrorism” activities. The particulars and evidence of the charges they face however emanate from their parliamentary activities and the responsibility they must uphold on behalf of the millions of voters that have elected them as their parliamentary representatives. These include; their speeches in Parliament, speeches at political rally’s, party meetings, press statements and general and legitimate opposition party activities. Continue reading