Jailed Kurdish leader Demirtaş: Human tragedy unfolding in Turkish prisons

A human tragedy is unfolding in Turkish prisons, said Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), in a written interview with Ruşen Çakır that was published on the Medyascope news website on Monday.

Demirtaş’s comments came in response to a question about the recent news that he was not allowed to see his two daughters together due to COVID-19 measures. The Kurdish leader said it wouldn’t be right for him to make a big deal out of not being able to see his daughters while, from death to torture and from isolation to health problems, a human tragedy is unfolding in Turkish prisons.

In a series of tweets Demirtaş’s wife Başak Demirtaş had said last week that their daughters were not allowed to see their father together, even in a non-contact visit, due to COVID-19 measures but that the same government was allowing huge crowds to gather at pro-government rallies.

Selahattin Demirtaş said such measures are unfair not only for him but more so for his family and the families of all inmates. He said such unjust measures and policies motivate him even more to fight injustice and likened the current situation in Turkey to an “open air torture house.”

Talking about the problems that the Kurds experience in Turkey, Demirtaş said: “All problems of the Kurdish people, including the language, culture, governance and economic issues, are, on the one hand, parts of the broader problem of democracy in Turkey, and on the other hand, since their solution requires a fundamental change in the official state policies, they are also political. Development of democracy will facilitate the resolution of the political problems.”

Selahattin Demirtaş was arrested on November 4, 2016 on terrorism-related charges and has been in jail since then. On November 20, 2018 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Demirtaş’s lengthy pre-trial detention had violated the European Convention on Human Rights, ordering the Turkish government to pay 10,000 euros in compensation and calling for his release. The Strasbourg court described Demirtaş’s arrest as “politically motivated.”

Following the ECtHR ruling, a Turkish appeals court upheld a four-year, eight-month sentence and in effect nullified the ECtHR decision.

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