ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Selahattin Demirtas, the imprisoned former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has vowed to rally voters from prison despite the “unfairness” of his campaign conditions for June snap elections in Turkey.
Demirtas is set to run against current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even though he has been held in jail for a year and a half.
On May 4, the HDP announced his nomination as a candidate for President of Turkey after Erdogan called for surprise snap elections to be held later this year on June 24.
This is the second time the charismatic Kurdish leader will be running for high office in the country against Erdogan.
In response to questions submitted by AFP to his lawyers, Demirtas said he was forced to campaign in his prison cell, describing it as an “absolute injustice and unfairness.”
In a recent interview with Reuters—again via written responses delivered through his lawyers—he called out an uneven playing field in favor of the government in the run-up to elections.
“Demonstrations are banned, talking is banned, criticizing the government is banned, even defending peace is considered terror propaganda. Hundreds of opposition journalists are arrested, dozens of TV and radio channels are closed,” he said.
“It is impossible [to have] fair elections in such an environment,” Demirtas said.
Prosecutors are asking for up to 142 years for Demirtas over charges of Kurdish separatism and “terrorism” on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for various speeches and comments he has made in the past.
Authorities have kept him behind bars since late 2016 when a massive state crackdown began on the HDP resulting in the jailing of at least eight MPs, the ouster from the parliament of 11 others, and imprisonment of 80 mayors and over 5,000 members.