ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has decided to go ahead with its imprisoned Co-leader Selahattin Demirtas in the next and third ordinary congress, said party sources on Sunday.
Facing an ongoing massive crackdown by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, the HDP has, along with Demirtas, 10 lawmakers in jail or months-long pre-trial imprisonment since last year.
In a party assembly meeting this week, HDP officials agreed on, but did not finalize, plans to hold their ordinary general congress in February 2018, reported Kurdistan 24’s Turkish language service.
They also wanted to re-nominate Demirtas for leadership.
Demirtas, also an MP for Istanbul, has been leading the HDP along with Figen Yuksekdag since its foundation in 2012.
Yuksekdag, also jailed and ousted from the Parliament, was replaced by Serpil Kemalbay in May.
Erdogan and Turkish prosecutors accuse Demirtas, other HDP lawmakers and members of being a political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a charge they deny.
The second largest opposition bloc, a left-wing, minority rights-oriented party, the HDP was founded as the continuation of former Kurdish parties banned by Turkish authorities.
Demirtas has been in regular touch with his party from a supermax prison in the northwestern Turkish province of Edirne via his lawyers.
Once branded as “the Kurdish Obama” by international media outlets, the 44-year-old charismatic lawyer came to prominence in 2014 Presidential elections in which he managed to gain support from 9.7 percent of voters from across Turkey.
His success of garnering 13 percent of votes for the HDP in June 2015 parliamentary elections cost President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) a mandate to form a single-party government for the first time since its coming to power in 2003.
HDP then won 80 seats in those elections but could not hold on to its victory when AKP failed to form a coalition with any of the opposition parties and opted for snap elections the following November shortly after a two years-held peace talks with the PKK dramatically collapsed.
The Kurdish leader who was instrumental during the talks and ceasefire has described his continued detention as “being a hostage” to Erdogan’s plan of “forging a one-man rule” in the country.
Prosecutors have asked for up to 142 years for Demirtas, and already sentenced him and several other lawmakers to decades of imprisonment on various charges of separatism and terror-related allegations.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany