Turkey denies release request from former head of pro-Kurdish party: party official

FILE PHOTO: Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is seen during an interview with Reuters at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, January 27, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

ANKARA (Reuters) - A Turkish court on Friday denied a request from the former head of the pro-Kurdish opposition to be released from jail while his terrorism trial continues, an official for Selahattin Demirtas’s Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said.

Demirtas, one of Turkey’s best known politicians, faces up to 142 years in jail if convicted on charges of links to the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He denies the charges.

Demirtas, told the court that the case against him was political and said he would not expect a fair trial as President Tayyip Erdogan openly urged the courts to arrest him.

“Up until now I have not seen the slightest hint that I will be tried justly,” he said in his first appearance in the case on Wednesday after more than 15 months in detention.

The court is set to hold the next hearing in his case on April 11, the official said.

As many as 5,000 members of the HDP, the third-largest party in the Turkish parliament, have been detained according to the opposition party. Several of its lawmakers have also been stripped of their parliamentary status.

The HDP denies authorities’ accusations of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebel group, which has been fighting government forces in southeastern Turkey since 1984. That group is deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and Europe.

Reporting by Gulsen Solaker and Ece Toksabay; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by David Dolan