ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate for president Muharrem Ince on Wednesday visited his pro-Kurdish rival Selahattin Demirtas whom the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration has kept in prison as the country goes to polls next month.
Ince, an outspoken lawmaker and long-time critic of the government, was able to see Demirtas in a supermax prison in the northwestern Edirne Province after he got permission from the Justice Ministry.
Other visitors the Kurdish politician accepted were his wife Basak Demirtas and two young daughters, Delal and Dilda.
Kurdistan 24’s Istanbul desk said no media were allowed near the prison where Demirtas has been detained since a massive crackdown began in late 2016 on his Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which he formerly led.
There was no statement regarding the meeting from CHP or Ince who held a rally in Edirne after seeing Demirtas.
HDP, however, published a press release by Demirtas via his lawyers.
The Kurdish candidate thanked Ince for his visit and commended it as one of “human solidarity.”
“My friends and I are being held as political hostages in prison,” Demirtas said, adding that the country was no different than where he was kept.
He said an ongoing state of emergency, lack of free media, threats of dismissal from a job or getting blacklisted, fear of arrest over criticism, criminalization of dissent, and the mobilization of all the taxpayers’ money for a single Presidential candidate (Erdogan) made elections an uneven playing field.
Ince has been meeting with presidential candidates. He is set to sit down with Erdogan at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters in Ankara on Wednesday night.
Fearing accusations of collaboration with “terrorists,” CHP and its leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has not condemned Demirtas’ continued detention and refrained from urging the release of the Kurdish politician for whom prosecutors ask up to 142 years.
Demirtas faces charges of “separatism and terrorism” over previous speeches as well as “insults to the President.” He played an instrumental role in the Erdogan administration’s 2013-2015 peace talks with the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Only after Erdogan called for snap elections last month, CHP officials, but not its leader, began demanding his release as there are no upheld convictions against him.
A majority of CHP lawmakers backed the AKP government when it moved to strip MPs of immunity from prosecution in 2016, a move that has disproportionately targeted HDP whose seven other lawmakers, along with Demirtas, remain jailed with two others in European exile and 11 ousted from the Parliament.
Ince was a notable exception. Foreseeing its consequences, he refused to support his party’s decision that would eventually end up with the jailing of one CHP lawmaker too, but none from the AKP.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany