Beloved HDP leader, human rights lawyer Demirtas denied release from jail, faces 142 years

By Middle East Affairs

Selahattin Demirtas, leader and former presidential candidate for Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was denied release from prison on Monday, by Turkish courts, a month before President Erdogan called for another round of snap and presidential elections.

Demirtas, a loved by the people Kurdish lawyer and politician was arrested by Turkish authorities a year and a half ago on charges of security, he faces up to 142 years if convicted. His party HDP nominated him as a presidential candidate for the election next month, his appeal for release is on the grounds that his imprisonment jeopardizes voter freedom.

His candidacy has been approved by Turkey’s High Electoral Board, and Demirtas seems to be running his campaign from prison.

Selahattin Demirtas (L) and Figen Yuksekdag (R) could face upto 142 years in jail. They have already been in jail since November 2016. Reuters

The HDP party wrote on Twitter, “We condemn this lawless decision which prevents an equal and fair election. Every day that Demirtas, the candidate of millions, is not with his voters will cast a shadow on the June 24 elections and put into question its legitimacy.”

Demirtas, one of Turkey’s most high profile politicians has won voters outside his core Kurdish demography, his arrest and imprisonment was a shock and cause of anger for many Turkish people who voted for him. He was arrested alongside many other prominent HDP politicians on charges of association with the militant Kurdistan Workers Party, charges that all detained have denied.

The HDP is the third leading party in Turkey’s political sphere and seeks to challenge President Erdogan’s AKP. They gained as high as 14 % of the vote in the last elections. Demirtas was arrested shortly after that. HDP is expected to gain some traction in the election against President Erdogan and is campaigning to gain seats in parliament.

June 24’s election comes a year earlier under President Erdogan’s insistence to switch his government to a executive presidency which would give him all the power. The referendum which approved his win was highly contested as power outages and voter fraud was reported midst election day.

The HDP has also nominated a prominent journalist and author, Ahmet Sik who was sentenced to seven and half years in prison on terrorism charges last month, and vocal critic and actor Baris Atay on their ticket party for the summer election.

Parties had to submit their list of potential candidates on Monday, under the new system championed by President Erdogan, ministers cannot be lawmakers, winning candidates can only serve in a cabinet if they relinquish their parliamentary position.

AKP has nominated all serving ministers as lawmakers but Finance Minister Naci Agbal and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci.

A file picture of the imprisoned Co-leader of Turkey’s opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas. (Photo: Reuters)

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