ISTANBUL (Today’s Zaman)—Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), may be investigated on charges of insulting the Turkish president and state, inciting crime and spreading terrorist propaganda, accusations that followed a speech he made on Wednesday.
The Diyarbakir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office submitted a petition to the Ministry of Justice, demanding a motion that would allow prosecutors to file a criminal complaint against Demirtas. The party leader is immune from investigation, and parliament would need to pass a motion lifting his immunity, should the ministry decide to press charges.
The official statement regarding the petition did not mention which of Demirtas’s remarks were considered criminal.
Throughout his speech, Demirtas called on all parties to exercise restraint and put an end to the recent bloodshed. He said the HDP has not taken part in any decisions regarding the violence, a move to distance it from the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has killed at least 112 members of the security forces in recent months. The government accuses the HDP of being “the PKK’s puppet.”
Demirtas did however level harsh criticism against the government during a news conference in the southeastern city, claiming that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and interim Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu are responsible for the bloodshed.
Referring to the dismantling of the settlement process between the government and the PKK, Demirtas said it was not the HDP that had decided to start a war, and that it does not support this decision. “The decision [to start a war] belongs to the president and the prime minister,” Demirtas said.
Rising violence in Turkey’s southeast following the collapse of a cease-fire between the government and the PKK will make it difficult to hold an election on November 1, Demirtas also stated.
Prosecutors argued in the petition that the party leader should be charged with “openly humiliating the nation, the state, and the state’s institutions and organs,” “openly inciting crimes,” “insulting the president” and “spreading terrorist propaganda.”
Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast has been the site of almost daily clashes between PKK militants and security forces since July. The conflict shattered the peace process begun by Erdogan in 2012 to end a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 over three decades.
A two-year cease-fire between the PKK and the government ended in July, after PKK members killed two police officers, and clashes have continued ever since.
HDP offices across the country were attacked after the PKK carried out an ambush, killing 16 members of the security forces in Daglica on Sunday, an attack considered to be the deadliest since the conflict was renewed. Protesters broke windows and set fire to HDP flags and signage.
The PKK, designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU, launched a separatist insurgency in 1984.