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Political theatrics as HDP show trial opens in Ankara

DEMOCRACY went on trial in Turkey today as the hearing against 108 leading figures in the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) opened in Ankara.

The day started with police violence against journalists Selman Guzelyuz and Diren Yurtsever, who were removed from the courtroom under instructions not to allow the Mesopotamia Agency to cover the trial.

More theatrics followed as more than 100 lawyers were blocked from taking their seats in court, their places filled by riot police. The action triggered a mass walkout, leaving the judges in a room devoid of either defendants or legal representatives.

The HDP, whose 55 MPs make it the third-largest force in the Turkish parliament, is under serious pressure. Defendants, many of whom are leading party figures including former co-chairs Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, face life imprisonment on a number of charges.

They have been indicted on 37 counts of murder in the so-called Kobane case, in the dock for calling street protests over government inaction when the Isis group was holding the largely Kurdish city in neighbouring northern Syria under siege in 2014.

Government forces and paramilitaries led a brutal crackdown on the demonstrations, killing at least 54 people and injuring and arresting many more.

Despite calls for international solidarity, just 11 observers arrived in Ankara today for the hearing, most from minor and obscure European parties.

Britain’s Labour Party maintained a stony silence, failing to respond to numerous requests for comment and failing to issue any kind of statement condemning the case brought against its sister party in Turkey.

The judge was accused of silencing defendants on a number of occasions, turning off Ms Yuksekdag’s microphone, leading to an angry response from another former HDP co-chair, Sebahat Tuncel.

“You have to listen. We will defend our rights. Law binds us all, but you do not abide by your own law. If you turn off my microphone, I will scream out loud,” she said.

Ms Yuksekdag accused the judges of “a biased, political stance,” which she said was a sign of how the Kobane case would proceed.

The trial is expected to last months.

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