A court on Monday handed down a prison sentence of three-and-a-half years to Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his lawyer has announced.
Ramazan Demir, a lawyer for Demirtaş, who has been behind bars since November 2016 on politically motivated charges, said on Twitter that Monday’s sentence was one of the longest given on charges of insulting the president, which is a crime in Turkey.
Demirtaş was sentenced due to remarks he made after the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey over Syria in 2015. In a speech in December 2015, Demirtaş criticized Erdoğan, saying the president had “flitted from corridor to corridor” during a conference in Paris, hoping to get a picture taken with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“My only regret over the speech is that I said too little,” Demirtaş told the court, according his lawyer.
The sentence against Demirtaş came less than a week after a top prosecutor filed a lawsuit demanding a ban on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a prominent HDP lawmaker, Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, was expelled from parliament due to a prison sentence on terrorism charges.
The HDP, the third largest group in parliament, has been under pressure for years over alleged links to Kurdish militants who have been waging a war against the state since 1984.
Dozens of HDP lawmakers and leaders have been arrested and jailed on terror and other charges which they deny and which rights groups view as politically motivated.
Former HDP co-leader Demirtaş — a two-time challenger to Erdoğan in presidential elections — has been kept behind bars despite calls from the European Court of Human Rights for his release.