Turkey sentences top pro-Kurdish politician Demirtas for 'insulting' president


A Turkish court on Monday sentenced jailed prominent pro-Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas to a three-and-a-half-year term for "insulting" the president, state news agency Anadolu reported.

Demirtas, former co-chair of the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), has been in pre-trial detention since November 2016 on various terrorism-related charges.

He participated in the hearing via videolink and criticised the ruling against him for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and then-prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu in 2015, Anadolu reported. International rights groups say Demirtas and other Kurdish politicians are targeted because of their political opposition to Erdogan.


Pressure has been mounting on the HDP, Turkey's third-largest party, after a chief prosecutor last week filed a lawsuit in the Constitutional Court seeking to disband it for alleged links to terrorism and bar more than 600 of its members from politics. The same day parliament stripped HDP lawmaker Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu of his seat, citing an appeals court ruling upholding his conviction on charges of terrorist propaganda over a years-old social media post.

The government accuses the HDP – a legal political party – of having ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a designated terrorist group.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has long demanded Demirtas' immediate release. Demirtas was kept in jail during a crucial 2017 referendum on extending presidential powers and a 2018 presidential election – in which he was a challenger to Erdogan – in order to stifle pluralism and limit political debate, the court said.    (dpa)

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