Selahattin Demirtaş, Co-chair of Turkey’s HDP, who has been arrested and kept in Edirne prison of Turkey testified before a court on Friday (January 6) on charges of ‘assaulting the president of Turkey’.
‘I am not a manager, member, spokesperson, or a sympathizer of PKK; I’m the co-chair of HDP’
Having connected the court via video call, Demirtaş denied the accusations and said his statements ‘were not assaulting but rather included messages of peace’. Reminding that he had been directly targeted by certain media sources as the responsible party after some attacks of PKK, Demirtaş also said: “I am not a manager, member, spokesperson, or a sympathizer of PKK. I am the co-chair of HDP; and, I criticize all means of violence and war and I stand against such policies.”
‘I made those statements in practice of my freedom of speech’
Handled by Diyarbakır prosecutor, the case against Demirtaş is related to parts of his speech that he gave in a meeting in Diyarbakır on 9 September 2015, where he said: “HDP does not have even the slightest responsibility on this bloodshed. Those who have made the political decision are the President and the Prime Minister.” While these statements are considered as ‘assault on the president’, Demirtaş said in his testimony that they were ‘critical statements about officials made by him as the co-chair of a political party and in practice of his freedom of speech’.
‘An ethnic clash was tried to be triggered’
Demirtaş noted that during that time over 400 offices of HDP had been raided and destructed by people who claimed themselves to be ‘Turkish nationalists’ and said an ethnic clash was tried to be triggered by ‘targetting and attacking anything that looked Kurdish’.
Emphasizing that while his statements, over which he is accused of assaulting the president, included criticism of the president and the prime minister and a call for peaceful resolution, Demirtaş said: “I actually request for politicians who said ‘the peace talks were ended and no resolution would come about’ to be detected so that those who are really responsible for peace process to end and violence to emerge can be known.”
‘Laws in this country are applied on me differently than on MHP Chair Devlet Bahçeli”
Demirtaş pointed out that as co-chairs of a political party they were obligated to monitor and criticize the acts of the government and continued his testimony with the following remarks: “The President sees himself as an active politician. He held election campaign meeting in 37 provinces prior to the June 7 elections (of 2015). During these meetings he encouraged the voters to vote for AKP. Someone who does politics like this must be ready for criticism. President Erdoğan could not manage to remain ‘above the politics’ as the previous President Abdullah Gül. Erdoğan acted like a chair of a political party. So, we criticized him… Actually, he has many times made statements about me that could be considered as assaulting… And, even if I had filed a criminal complaint about such statements, presidents (in Turkey) cannot be tried for any crime aside from treason… Investigations have been launched because of my political identity. There are 15 separate incidents in 2015 where Devlet Bahçeli (chair of Nationalist Movement Party) had called President Erdoğan a ‘thief’ and made similar comments. But no legal action has been taken against him because of his statements. Because, laws in this country are applied on me differently than they are applied on Devlet Bahçeli…”
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