Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş invited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss the Kurdish issue with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
During the third day of his oral defence in the Kobane trial in Ankara on Wednesday, “Let’s discuss the realities in İmralı,” he said, referring to the İmralı Island Prison where Öcalan is being held.
Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), underscored his commitment to peace in the face of threats during his defence in the Kobani trial on Wednesday. Pro-Kurdish politicians and political party are increasingly coming under fire in Turkey, most recently with an incident outside its successor Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) headquarters in Ankara, where a nationalist mob left a yellow body bag, symbolising a direct threat to Kurdish politicians.
“Despite the words ‘I will bring your brother in a yellow bag, Demirtaş,’ I strived for peace,” he stated, highlighting his resolve against intimidation. He referenced former Chief of Staff İlker Başbuğ’s statement about the PKK to underline the ineffectiveness of solely military approaches: “We defeated the PKK six times militarily, but we couldn’t solve the problem.”
The incident at the DEM Party’s headquarters, involving members of the Veterans and Martyrs Families Foundation of Turkey chanting racist slogans and leaving a yellow bag, reflected the palpable tensions and challenges faced by Kurdish political figures in Turkey.
Demirtaş’s defence further delved into the Turkish government’s handling of legal norms, particularly the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decisions. “[President] Erdoğan placed himself in the position of the judiciary by saying ‘ECHR’s decisions do not bind us’,” he criticised, underscoring the need for adherence to legal and constitutional standards. He accused Erdoğan of politicising the Kobani trial for political gain, asserting, “He is keeping us in here for the sake of votes. I openly say; he is a liar, a slanderer.”
Demirtaş also touched upon the recent rift in the Turkish judiciary in which the Court of Appeals refused to implement the Contritutional Court’s (AYM) decision to release jailed MP Can Atalay. “If the judiciary says ‘I will conduct this fight without recognising the constitution,’ then there is no state there,” he said.
AYM released a detailed rationale for its second ruling on legal violations in Workers’ Party of Turkey MP Can Atalay’s case on Tuesday and condemned the failure to implement its ruling, asserting that its decisions are binding and cannot be ignored by any authority.