In another blow for the political opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas, detained since November 2016, was sentenced on Friday to four years and eight months in prison for “terrorist propaganda”. Former MP Süreyya Önder was also sentenced to three years and six months in prison.
Prosecutors accused the two former HDP MPs of praising the banned PKK and its imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan in speeches made at a Kurdish Newroz celebration in 2013, according to BBC news.
On Twitter, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) denounced the “war policy” of the government. The Kurdish group has consistently denounced what they see as the use of “political” trials aimed at silencing their party, which is fiercely opposed to Mr. Erdogan. The HDP, the third largest party in the Turkish Parliament, has been severely affected by the purges conducted after the failed coup of July 2016.
“We will not back down, we will continue to defend the peace,” said Demirtas, who was speaking via videoconference from Edirne prison in the northwest, where he is being held, according to reports by the HDP. The Kurdish leader, who has been in detention since November 2016 on charges of “terrorist” activities, is also being prosecuted in a number of other cases and is facing a total of up to 130 years in prison in his main trial.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly accused the HDP of being the political wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is classified as a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies. Demirtas ran against Erdogan in the 24 June presidential election and won 8.4% of the vote.