Turkey arrests Demirtaş, a leading Kurdish politician, as government crackdown escalates

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Kurdish politician and HDP's co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş. File photo

ARA News

Urfa – Turkish police arrested on Friday Turkey’s most prominent Kurdish politician and co-Chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş. Demirtaş has repeatedly criticized President Erdogan’s crackdown against Kurdish communities and the erosion of political freedoms in Turkey.

“The Turkish police broke into the Demirtaş’ home in Diyarbakir and arrested him,” the HDP said in a statement. Minutes before his arrest, the Kurdish leader wrote on his Twitter account: “The security forces are at my door in Diyarbakir.”

Turkish prosecutors claim Demirtaş denigrated Erdoğan in a speech he gave condemning the arrest of two Kurdish co-mayors in Diyarbakir city last week. The principle oratory themes of that speech were the silencing of the media, abuse of power and the need to restart the moribund peace process.

“We are not afraid of being prosecuted, though justice is the last thing encountered in Turkey’s courts,” Demirtaş said in a statement last Thursday. “If there was justice, we’d be willing to be prosecuted together [with Erdoğan]. If they are going to question him about reams of money in shoe boxes, the trucks of weapons sent to Syria, those murdered in the streets, let’s be prosecuted together.”

In the same speech, Demirtaş said that while the HDP worked for peace, day and night, Erdogan’s government was against any form of dialogue. “You are blocking these options. However, we will insist on politics till the end. A sane government would pave the way for politics. A sane government would pave the way for dialogue,” the Kurdish leader said.

Demirtaş’ arrest comes just one day after the HDP’s other co-Chair, Figen Yüksekdağ, received a 10-month jail sentence for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Yüksekdağ was convicted for giving a speech at the funeral of a member of the underground Marxist–Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) in 2012. Seven Kurdish politicians from the HDP, including Yüksekdağ, have been convicted for attending the funeral.

While the HDP has no official ties with the MLKP, owing to the latter’s violent Hoxhaist ideology, they are both resolutely hostile to the Islamic State (ISIS) and jihadism. The MLKP has sent volunteers to Northern Syria – Rojava and Sinjar to protect minority communities.

“We will not surrender,” Yüksekdağ said in response to the verdict. “We will be the end and the curse for the dictatorship [in Turkey].”

While in the past it was impossible to charge lawmakers in Turkey, last May a decision was made to lift the immunity of some parliamentarians. Of Turkey’s 59 Kurdish MPs, 53 are currently being investigated by Turkey’s prosecutors. The overwhelming majority of the cases stem from the expression of objectionable ideas.

The arrests of Kurdish politicians are already leading to mass protests and a spike in tensions between Kurds and Ankara.

Anticipating those protests and tensions, Turkish security forces have severed the Internet connection of millions of people. Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality said that the ongoing “blackout attempt aims at silencing the voice of people in the region as well as preventing them from exercising their right to be informed.”

Reporting by: Jan Nasro & Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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