Leader of Sweden’s Left Party denied visit to jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş

Photo credit: Jonas Sjöstedt @jsjostedt

A group of Swedish politicians including the leader of Sweden’s Left Party, Jonas Sjöstedt, deputy speaker of the Swedish parliament Lotta Johnsson Fornarve and the foreign affairs director of the Left Party, H. Erik Metz Swernaling, were denied a visit to jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş on Monday, the Mesopotamia News Agency reported.

The visitation request was denied by the administration of the prison where Demirtaş is incarcerated in the western city of Edirne. Speaking to journalists, Sjöstedt said they went to Turkey to show internationalist solidarity against the recent crackdown on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Demirtaş was co-chair of the HDP when he was arrested in 2016.

Eighty-two prominent members of the HDP were detained on September 25 over their alleged role in protests in southeastern Turkey that turned violent and led to at least 37 deaths. The protests, which took place between October 6 and October 8, 2014, were a reaction to what is seen by many as the Turkish government’s tacit approval of the Kobane siege in 2014, when Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants laid a prolonged siege to a Kurdish town in northern Syria. The government has made repeated statements holding the HDP responsible for the deaths that occurred. An Ankara court arrested 17 of the detainees on Friday.

The Swedish lawmaker said the operations against HDP politicians were undemocratic and that the government’s repression of the party was “dictatorial.” Answering a question about the possibility of the shutting down of the HDP, Sjöstedt said international public opinion would give a harsh response if that happened.

According to Sjöstedt, the HDP and Demirtaş are actually key to the solution of problems in Turkey. “We think the main reason behind Demirtaş’s arrest was Erdoğan’s fear of him.” he said.

The Swedish leader said he’d be visiting HDP headquarters in Ankara and meet with opposition parties and civil society organizations.

Sjöstedt also called on Turkish authorities to quickly recognize the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decisions on Demirtaş.

Demirtaş was arrested on November 4, 2016 on terrorism-related charges and has been in jail since then. On November 20, 2018 the 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 decision, a Turkish appeals court upheld a four-year, eight-month sentence and in effect nullified the ECtHR decision.

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