February 14, 2018 / 8:24 PM / 5 days ago

Jailed former head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition says his trial political

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The former head of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition, Selahattin Demirtas, told a court on Wednesday that terrorism charges against him were politically motivated and he did not think he would get a fair trial.

Demirtas, the former co-head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is accused of being an administrator of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and being the head of its political section.

He denies the charges but faces up to 142 years in prison if convicted.

“Up until now I have not seen the slightest hint that I will be tried justly,” he said in his first appearance in the case after more than 15 months in detention.

“Not a single action has been taken regarding evidence that is in my favour.”

Demirtas said President Tayyip Erdogan had urged the courts to arrest him and his ruling AK Party to run a smear campaign against him.

“The President is calling me a terrorist every day, and openly instructing the courts and the parliament against us. It wasn’t the judiciary who brought me here, but the President himself,” Demirtas said.

Demirtas, who won votes beyond his Kurdish core constituency in recent elections, faces up to four years in jail on the charges of insulting Erdogan.

The HDP, the third-largest party in the Turkish parliament, denies authorities’ accusations of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebel group, which has been fighting government forces in southeastern Turkey since 1984. The group is deemed a terrorist organisation by the United States, Turkey and Europe.

The opposition party has been hammered by a crackdown that followed an abortive coup in Turkey in July 2016. As many as 5,000 of party members have been detained, HDP says, while several of its lawmakers have also been stripped of their parliamentary status.

The hearing will continue on Thursday and Friday.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay

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