Turkey prosecutors seek five years in jail for pro-Kurdish party leader: media

The leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas, makes a speech during a rally in Istanbul, Turkey, June 5, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish prosecutors are seeking five-year jail sentences for head of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas, and another pro-Kurdish lawmaker for spreading “terrorist group propaganda”, Dogan news agency said on Friday.

The prosecution, one of many looming against HDP lawmakers since their parliamentary immunity from prosecution was lifted in May, could fuel tensions in the mainly Kurdish southeast which has been hit by conflict for more than a year.

The indictment accuses Demirtas and HDP deputy Sirri Sureyya Onder of praising the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan in speeches they made in 2013, when a peace process between Ankara and the PKK was underway.

The 2-1/2 year ceasefire collapsed in July 2015 and since then violence in the southeast has returned to levels not seen since the height of the fighting in the 1990s.

President Tayyip Erdogan, who accuses the HDP of being a political extension of the PKK, was the driving force behind parliament’s move to lift the immunity of many HDP deputies, along with the immunity of MPs from other parties.

The HDP denies direct links with the autonomy-seeking PKK and promotes a negotiated end to the insurgency that has killed 40,000 people, mostly Kurds. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan