AKP gov’t keeping Demirtaş in jail to prevent his running in 2023 election, lawyer says

The Turkish government is keeping Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), behind bars so as to prevent him from running for president in the 2023 election, a lawyer for the jailed Kurdish politician said, according to Turkish Minute.

Arrested on November 4, 2016, on terrorism-related charges, Demirtaş has since then remained in prison despite two European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings in 2018 and 2020 that said Demirtaş was imprisoned for “political” reasons and not for “legal” reasons, ordering his “immediate release.”

The Council of Europe also called on Turkey to immediately release the Kurdish politician on September 17, 2021.

Although the ECtHR rulings are legally binding, there have been many instances in which Turkey has not implemented them. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dismissed both rulings on Demirtaş, accusing the court of applying a double standard and of hypocrisy.

Demirtaş’s lawyer, Benan Molu, told Evrensel on Tuesday that Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been keeping the Kurdish leader behind bars so he can’t run for president in the 2023 election.

Regarding the reasons behind the Turkish courts’ refusal to implement the ECtHR decisions in favor of Demirtaş, Molu said: “When you take into account all the investigations and prosecutions [related to Demirtaş] and the case seeking to shut down the HDP and the imposition of a political ban on Demirtaş [among hundreds of others], the real reason is to keep him in jail as long as possible so that he can’t become a [presidential] candidate. The rulings are being interpreted in ways that violate the constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The Turkish Constitutional Court decided in June to accept an indictment against the HDP, the second-largest opposition party in the Turkish Parliament, in an attempt to dissolve it.

Erdoğan’s systematic campaign to restrict the rights of the HDP over the past few years, which includes a closure case against the party and the detention of more than 5,000 HDP lawmakers, executives and party members on politically motivated charges, has prompted international condemnation.

Last week, 10 US senators in a letter urged President Joe Biden to “forcefully condemn” Erdoğan’s escalating efforts to disband the HDP, saying that it represented “a clear effort to kneecap the political opposition ahead of Turkey’s next general elections scheduled for 2023 and, if successful, would extinguish the fairness and credibility of such elections and do lasting damage to the country’s political pluralism.”

Putting the HDP on trial on politically motivated charges marked the culmination of Erdoğan’s efforts to “disenfranchise Turkey’s Kurdish population, undercut political pluralism in the country, and tighten his grip on power through anti-democratic means,” they added.

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