More than 100 people linked to a pro-Kurdish party have gone on trial in the Turkish capital Ankara for their alleged involvement in violent protests in 2014. In January, prosecutors charged the 108 defendants with 29 crimes, including the murders of 37 people and “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state”, and are seeking multiple life sentences and thousands of years in prison.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) says the trial is politically motivated and is the latest in a severe government crackdown against them. Among the defendants are former HDP leaders charged for allegedly organising and inciting the violence despite not being involved with carrying out violent acts. On Monday, the trial began in a tense atmosphere with lawyers walking out of the courtroom, protesting the court committee’s refusal to allow in more lawyers and saying this undermined the right of defence. Defence lawyers alleged unfair treatment at the start of a trial of members of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party over 2014 protests that began during an assault by Islamic State on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. The defendants refused to respond to questions by the judge during the identification process without their lawyers present, saying their right to defence was being violated. Defendants connected via video link tapped their cameras and clapped in solidarity, the HDP said.
All the charges relate to the “Kobane protests” that took place on October 6 to 8, 2014, as ISIL (ISIS) was closing in on the Syrian town of Kobane which is right on the border with Turkey. The 3,350-page indictment says 37 people died, 761 – including hundreds of law enforcement officers – were wounded, 197 schools were burned, 269 public buildings damaged, 1,731 homes and businesses looted and 1,230 cars rendered unusable.