A Turkish court has handed down a prison sentence to jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş on charges of insulting former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Monday.
The court in southern Mersin province handed down an 11 month and 20-day jail sentence to the former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on grounds that he insulted Davutoğlu during a 2016 speech in the province, it said. The judge did not suspend the sentence.
Demirtaş, who has been jailed since 2016 on a string of terror charges, attended the hearing via video-conferencing system SEGBİS, denied that he insulted the former prime minister, according to Cumhuriyet.
“I criticised the government and its officials as a member of an opposition party. There is the concept of absolute irresponsibility in the constitution. I used the right granted to me by the constitution,’’ it cited the former HDP chair as saying.
Demirtaş also criticised Davutoğlu for refusing to withdraw the lawsuit against him, despite heading an opposition party.
Davutoğlu was the prime minister and chairman of the ruling AKP from 2014 to 2016 until he fell out with Erdoğan and was forced out. He resigned from the party in Sept. 2019 before staring the AKP rival Future Party in December of the same year.
Demirtaş has been behind bars since November 2016 in what the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has called a “politically-motivated” trial. The ECHR has called for the Kurdish politician’s immediate release in a binding ruling for Turkey. However, Ankara has not complied, despite the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe joining the top court in its call.