Selahattin Demirtaş, presidential candidate of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), could be released from prison within days, one of his lawyers told Kurdistan24 on Tuesday.
“It is a shame that Demirtas has not already been freed. It’s a great shame for the judiciary. It is legally unacceptable, especially after his becoming a candidate for the presidency,” lawyer Mahsuni Karaman said. “I have no doubt that Demirtaş will be released in a few days,” he added.
Since Demirtaş’s arrest, his lawyers have made repeated requests to a penal court in Ankara that it release him, arguing that to do so would be in the interest of free and fair elections.
Demirtaş, also former co-leader of the HDP, is competing with the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the run-up to elections that will be held on June 24. In interviews from prison, he has complained of unfair conditions as the country goes to snap polls Erdoğan himself called.
His other rivals, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce, the İYİ Party’s Meral Akşener and the Felicity Party’s (SP) Temel Karamollaoğlu, have said Demirtaş should be freed.
The Turkish government is holding Demirtaş in a jail in Edirne on accusations of “terrorism” and “separatism,” charges he denies. The government jailed Demirtaş along with a dozen other HDP deputies in late 2016 after night house raids that spanned several provinces.
It marked the beginning of a wider crackdown on the Kurdish movement in Turkey that would continue with the mass arrest of some 80 mayors, at least 5,000 party members, NGO representatives and over 160 journalists.
Prosecutors are seeking up to 142 years in prison in various cases against Demirtaş as he insists he is a politician and cannot be jailed for his political activities.
Meanwhile, Başak Demirtaş, the wife of Demirtaş, has said following a prison visit that her husband is holding a rally for his prison cellmate, HDP deputy Abdullah Zeydan.
Posting a video message from her Twitter account after the visit, Başak Demirtaş said: “I have just visited our presidential candidate in prison. He is carrying out a very intense presidential campaign in prison. He said he answered many interview questions today. He said he will hold a rally for Mr. Zeydan in the evening again. I wish him [Zeydan] patience. He sends his greetings to all our people.”
Also on Wednesday, the HDP named journalist Ahmet Şık as a candidate for member of parliament in the upcoming elections on June 24. The HDP is planning to offer candidacy to several figures who have faced trials. Another candidate is jailed professor Onur Hamzaoğlu, who was the editor of a medical periodical published by the Turkish Medical Association.
Veli Saçılık, a symbolic figure known for his disobedience of police in several demonstrations held in Ankara’s Yüksel Street, and Leyla Güven, the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) co-chair who is also in jail, are among the HDP’s candidates. A leading human rights activist, also a medical doctor who was dismissed from his job, Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, announced his nomination on May 7.