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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Turkey: International Observers Denied Access to Demirtas’ Trial As Arrests and Detentions Continue

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IMG_1447-500x540

Myself and the other international observers were in a sombre mood as we boarded the bus that would take us to the Sincan prison court so we could watch the trial of Selahattin Demirtas. This was due to developments in Turkey over the past few days and most of us expected that, despite assurances given to us last December, we would not be granted admission to the trial.

Upon arriving at our destination these grave expectations were proven correct. We were not allowed to enter the court. Our party joined the crowds of angry people, including diplomats who were British, Canadian, US, Norwegian, Danish, the foreign press and solidarity action groups, in pushing at the gate, hoping to get inside the courtroom.

IMG_1447(From left to right) Margaret outside court with Bente Knagenhjelm and Ali Has

 

IMG_2697(From right to left) Margaret outside court with Leila Khaled, Michel Laurent and Sylvie Jan France

 

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Background on the Trial of Selahattin Demirtas

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Demirtas

 Monday 12th February 2018

Written by Margaret Owen, International Trial Observer and Barrister

On 4th November 2016, the Co-Chair of Turkey’s pro Kurdish political party, the HDP (the Peoples’ Democratic Party), Selahattin Demirtas (pictured) was arrested and kept in pre-trial detention at Edirne prison under the country’s anti-terror law. On Wednesday 14th February 2018, in Ankara Demirtas will appear before a court as part of his ongoing trial. I am a member of a delegation from the UK that hopes to observe proceedings as they unfold.

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HDP: Extend your condolences to the people, not to the Turkish state

HDP-Logo

12 October 2015

CALL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY BY HDP

On October 10th, a Peace Rally that brought together many civil society organizations, revolutionary unions, and progressive and democratic parties, among them HDP, was the target of a horrendous attack. Unfortunately, at least 128 of our fellow citizens were murdered in this attack, and hundreds wounded. We are concerned that the death toll may rise, as 48 among the wounded are in critical condition. This attack will go down as one of the bloodiest in the history of our republic. Continue reading