Pro-Kurdish HDP appeals to Turkish court for release of jailed presidential candidate Demirtaş

Mahsuni Karaman, Yıldız İrmek, Ramazan Demir, Sertaç Buluttekin and Aygül Demirtaş, the lawyers of Selahattin Demirtaş, the presidential candidate of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), have appealed for his release from jail, saying his official candidacy constitutionally necessitates active participation in the election period.

Demirtaş’s lawyers appealed to the Ankara 19th High Criminal Court on Tuesday demanding his release, stating that Turkey’s constitution and European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) legislation stipulates the “right to a free election.”

The lawyers stated in their petition that “The period of incarceration has exceeded 1 year and 6 months; and evidence has been gathered. “The client is a member of parliament and a Presidential candidate, as such is at no flight risk, on the contrary has concrete affairs that would require otherwise. By virtue of these, we demand our client be rightly released,” said the lawyers.

“Our appeal for release today is not a particular demand for Demirtaş’s individual freedom. This demand is the demand of millions of voters who support him. These millions want Demirtaş to be in the field with them, living the election period with them,” lawyer Mahsuni Karaman said on Tuesday in front of the Ankara court.

Demirtaş was arrested in November 2016 and has been in prison ever since on a raft of charges including “leading a terrorist organization.” The first hearing of that case was held in December 2017 and he has appeared in the dock three times.

In the court’s interim ruling on April 13 it ruled for the continuation of his arrest throughout the trial period. The fourth hearing will be held on July 18.

Demirtaş was presented as the HDP’s presidential candidate for the upcoming elections to be held on July 24, and Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) officially approved his candidacy with an announcement on May 13.

Karaman said Demirtaş’s lawyers have routinely applied for the release of Demirtaş, as the courts are obliged to re-examine every 30 days the imprisonment conditions of detainees being tried.

“Our appeal today goes beyond a simple request for release. It is a serious demand for Turkey’s democracy. We expect the Ankara court to make its decision within a couple of days,” he said.

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