ANKARA: A Turkish court Friday gave the former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas, who ran for the presidency this year, four years and eight months in jail for making terror propaganda.
Demirtas, already held in jail since November 2016 on charges of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was convicted of making propaganda for Kurdish militants, the HDP said.
The court in Silivri outside Istanbul also sentenced former HDP lawmaker Sirri Sureyya Onder to three years and six months for the same charge.
They were sentenced over speeches they had made during the New Year festival of Newroz in March 2013, a HDP official told AFP.
“Because they defended peace, they were… sentenced to jail,” the HDP said on Twitter.
The conviction comes after Demirtas was sentenced by a court in February 2017 to five months in jail for denigrating the Turkish state and its institutions.
Demirtas is currently being held at a prison in Edirne, in northwest Turkey, from where he campaigned as HDP’s candidate in the presidential elections on June 24.
He won 8.4 percent of the vote and came third after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem Ince.
Demirtas was defiant after the court’s ruling in a message shared by his party on Twitter: “We will not take a step back, we will continue to defend peace.”
Demirtas has dozens of court cases hanging over him and in another case over alleged links to the PKK, he risks up to 142 years in jail if found guilty.
The HDP is the second main opposition party in Turkey with 67 MPs and became the first pro-Kurdish party to enter parliament in June 2015.
Over a dozen lawmakers had been detained in 2016 and 2017 over alleged links to the PKK, in what supporters say is punishment for daring to oppose Erdogan.
The Turkish government accuses the HDP of merely being the political wing of the PKK, which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. The HDP denies this.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terror organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.
Since the collapse of a two-year ceasefire in 2015, violence has resumed and Ankara has conducted several military operations against the PKK. —AFP