Turkish Interior Minister Soylu says pro-Kurdish presidential candidate Demirtaş belongs in jail

Turkey's Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Tuesday that Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed presidential candidate of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), fitted the perfect profile of a prison inmate, according to reports in Turkish media.

“If not that person who caused the death of 53 people with one order, then who is to be placed behind bars? Can someone explain this to me?” Soylu asked, in an apparent reference to Demirtaş’s call for protests in October of 2014 against what many Kurds saw as Turkish support for the militants of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacking the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. A total of 53 protesters were killed in clashes with the police.

Soylu’s comments come as members of Turkey’s opposition, particularly the HDP, are calling for Demirtaş to be released from prison ahead of the June 24 elections. “They are trying to appear cute to the West,” Soylu said.

The HDP’s former co-chair Demirtaş has been in prison pending trial since November 2016 when he was arrested on terror charges under an ongoing state of emergency. Turkish prosecutors seek a 142-year prison sentence for the politician for allegedly spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Demirtaş denies membership in the group and says his party has been scapegoated for the breakdown of peace negotiations held by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and PKK.

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) presidential candidate Muharrem İnce and İYİ Party presidential candidate Meral Akşener have called on government to release Demirtaş.

Minister Soylu also told European Union ambassadors to Turkey that European nations themselves would be responsible for any future terrorist attacks in their countries. “When bombs explode and (terrorist) actions are carried out in Europe, European politicians will be too ashamed to appear on television,” the Sözcü newspaper quoted him as telling a conference on border security in the northwestern Turkish city of Edirne.

He said the US was supporting the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which he claimed had an agreement to support the ISIL in Syria, and Europe would pay the price for allowing it to happen. “Mighty Europe has fallen to the status of a plaything of a country from across the ocean,” he said.

The YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by U.S. air power, has driven ISIL out of almost all of northern and northeastern Syria.

Soylu also accused former US ambassador to Turkey John Bass of being responsible for a wave of Afghan migration to Turkey since taking up the post of ambassador to Kabul, as well as an increase in the volume of heroin shipped from Afghanistan to Europe via Turkey.

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