The Trial of Selahattin Demirtas: Observations on the trial and the future of democracy in Turkey

Public meeting organised by Peace in Kurdistan and Kurdish People’s Assembly UK

Thu 17 May 2018
18:00 – 20:00 BST

SOAS University of London
Room B111 (Brunei Gallery)
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square London WC1H 0XG

Click below to book a place at this free event:

The prosecution and trial of Selahattin Demirtas has been one of the great scandals of recent years in Europe. Demirtas, an elected politician and co-leader of the People’s Democratic Party in Turkey (HDP), has been in detention since November 2016 on the most dubious charges. The HDP is the second largest opposition party in Turkey and is progressive and democratic. It advocates for rights for all progressive forces, including importantly the Kurds.

The election success of the HDP in 2015, when it broke through the 10% electoral threshold and gained 80 seats, sparked a democratic crisis in Turkey. Party members, elected officers and Party offices of the HDP were attacked with impunity. Elected politicians were arrested and charged with terrorism related offences, often in relation to the content of speeches made in Parliament. The Government took over almost all municipalities in the South-East of the country, depriving the electorate of their chosen representatives.

The indictment against Demirtas runs to 500 pages and accuses him of being a leading member of the PKK, of spreading propaganda and of praising criminals, but the evidence is mainly based on his public speeches and lacks any compelling evidence of criminal behaviour.

Margaret Owen and Ali Has, both London based lawyers, have been the most consistent observers of the on-going trial of Demirtas, visiting Turkey regularly, despite all the obstacles that the authorities have consistently thrown in their way. Their observation reports have documented numerous flagrant breaches of internationally recognised standards of fair trial.

At this meeting they, and London lawyer Stephen Knight who also observed one of the hearings, will expand on their observations and set out their concerns about the process, the political context, in particular the forthcoming election and the invasion of Afrin, and about the likely miscarriage of justice that will ensue as the trial approaches its final stages.


Margaret Owen OBE, Lawyer, Door tenant at 9 Bedford Row, feminist, activist founder and director Widows for Peace through Democracy, Patron Peace in Kurdistan Campaign.
Ali Has, Solicitor Advocate, member of the Law Society International Human Rights Intervention Team.
Stephen Knight, criminal defence and immigration barrister at 1 Pump Court Chambers, Secretary of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.


Image supplied by Margaret Owen

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