Turkish prison administration restricts HDP candidate Demirtaş’s access to newspapers

The administration of Edirne Prison initially refused to give jailed politician and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş a newspaper in which an interview he gave to the paper was published, only relenting after a protest was filed with prison authorities, according to the Birgün daily.

The Edirne Prison Education Board announced on May 14 that Demirtaş’s interview with Birgün made accusations against prison staff by circulating “fake news,” which allegedly led to a security problem for the institution.

Demirtaş spoke in the interview of the difficulties of campaigning for an election while under pretrial detention, explaining that it’s impossible to do properly under those circumstances. Then he called on his supporters to campaign for him.

Last week Demirtaş was also prevented from at first seeing an edition of the Cumhuriyet daily in which there was an interview with his mother. On May 13, a statement was made via Demirtaş’s Twitter account claiming that the Cumhuriyet, Birgün and Evrensel dailies were not given to Demirtaş until they had been inspected.

“An edition of the Cumhuriyet daily was not given to me because in it were my mother’s remarks and a photo of us together. I guess they were concerned that I would be affected by my mother’s comments and would cast a ballot for myself,” Demirtaş said.

Birgün reported that the newspapers were finally given to Demirtaş a day later by the prison administration after inspection.

Meanwhile, HDP Co-chair Sezai Temelli held a press conference at party headquarters in Ankara and said: “As you know, last week, Demirtaş’s lawyers filed an appeal arguing for his release. We expect this application to be completed tomorrow. We expect a positive response. Demirtaş’s freedom is our priority.”

According to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency saying that the detention of Demirtaş had cast a shadow over the legitimacy of the presidential election, Temelli added: “The other five presidential candidates are using all kind of resources and means to carry out their campaigns. The fact that our candidate cannot actually access any resource and can use only very limited means have clearly cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the presidential election. Demirtaş is still a member of parliament and was voted in by 6 million people. Therefore he should be able to compete in this election and run his campaign with no limitations.”

Former HDP co-chair and presidential candidate Demirtaş has been detained for 18 months without any reason based in law, Temelli said, and added: “This is the source of a crisis of legitimacy for Turkey. If Demirtaş were to be released today, it would be an important step, together with the scrapping of the threshold after the election. All this will pave the way to democracy in Turkey.”

“The other presidential candidates have called for Demirtaş’s release. These calls are very important because they represent a step beyond usual political behavior. They are a big contribution to the building of a culture of democracy in Turkey. We call on the presidential candidates who made this call to insist on it.”

The HDP’s Demirtaş has been in pretrial detention since November 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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