Istanbul – The trial on terrorism charges of Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party, began in Ankara on Thursday, without the defendant in the courtroom.
Demirtas, 44, the co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is accused of a number of crimes, including founding a terrorist organisation and sedition. He faces up to 142 years in jail.
According to Ayhan Bilgen, an HDP spokesperson, Demirtas was not allowed to attend the trial in person and he then refused to connect to the courtroom via a televised link.
In June 2015, the HDP became the first Kurdish party in the country’s history to pass the 10 per cent electoral threshold and enter parliament.
The party said the charges against Demirtas are politically motivated.
Demirtas is a staunch critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
A number of HDP members of parliament are in jail and thousands of party members have been arrested.
The government alleges the HDP, which remains legal, has links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group.
HDP says it is independent.
Shortly after the June 2015 election, a peace process between the state and the PKK collapsed and violence resumed.