Kurdish Leader Goes on Trial in Turkey Facing 142 Years in Jail

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.

Although 1,250 attorneys have come forward volunteering to defend Demirtas, HDP said the authorities have chosen a courtroom with only about 20 seats, which they said limits Demirtas's right to defence in the trial, where worldwide observers from about a dozen countries are expected to attend. The court judges also refused to allow global and local observers to attend the hearing.

In a 500 page indictment, Demirtas is accused of leading a terrorist organization, spreading terrorist propaganda, and inciting hate and crime.

Lawyers say there are a total of 31 different summaries of proceedings included in the case, including a number of speeches Demirtaş delivered on separate occasions.

The trial has become a focal point of criticism over the government's crackdown after last year's failed coup and the introduction of emergency rule. He faces up to 142 years in jail. The trial has adjourned until February and the judges ruled Demirtas will remain in prison.

The government alleges the HDP, which remains legal, has links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed group.



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