Key Kurdish politician gets 42 years in jail over 2014 Turkish riots

Selahattin Demirtas, key Kurdish politician, speaks during a press conference. picture alliance / dpa
Selahattin Demirtas, key Kurdish politician, speaks during a press conference. picture alliance / dpa
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A Turkish court on Thursday sentenced Selahattin Demirtaş, a jailed key Kurdish politician, to 42 years in jail over his alleged role in violent protests in 2014, local media reported.

Demirtaş, former co-chair of the now-defunct pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), has been in pre-trial detention since 2016. He was a challenger to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the 2018 elections.

Another jailed ex-HDP co-chair, Figen Yüksekdağ, was handed just over 30 years in jail on charges of harming the unity of Turkish state and terror propaganda, among others, state news agency Anadolu reported.

Demirtaş and 107 other defendants, including ex-HDP lawmakers, have been on trial since mid-2021 for their alleged ties to 2014 riots linked to the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

Government critics protested the case as being politically motivated.

Amid a court case on shutting down the party, the HDP recently rebranded itself as the DEM.

The court in the capital Ankara sentenced Demirtaş to 20 years for "aiding to destroy the unity of the state and integrity of the country," Anadolu said.

Demirtaş received another 22 years in jail for a total of 47 charges, among them inciting crime.

Twenty-two defendants, including south-eastern city Mardin Mayor Ahmet Turk, received varying jail sentences of between nine to more than 22 years, according to DEM.

Twelve defendants were acquitted and the court separated the cases of 72 people in absentia, according to Anadolu.

The defendants will appeal the decision, lawyer Ramazan Demir told dpa over the phone.