Court refuses to release Demirtas from prison: Turkish state media

A lawyer for Demirtas, however, contested the reports, saying he couldn't confirm.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A court in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Monday refused to release Selahattin Demirtas, a candidate for the country’s highest office and prominent Kurdish politician, from jail where authorities hold him since late 2016 over various charges based on his political activities and speeches.

The heavy penal court said a conditional release as trials against Demirtas continued was not possible, the public-funded Anadolu Agency (AA) reported.

However, a lawyer who a week ago requested Demirtas’ release and said he was hopeful his client would be free contested the news run by the government-controlled agency.

“News stories are emerging that our request for release has been rejected. As of this hour, there is no way we can get a confirmation from the court,” lawyer Mahsuni Karaman wrote on Twitter.

Karaman went on to accuse the state’s official news outlet of “not relaying news” but rather “making a decision.”

“On Nov. 4, 2016, while Mr. Demirtas’ interrogation [by prosecutors] was going on, AA made the story, pardon, the decision that he was detained! Not surprised,” he said.

Since Demirtas’ arrest then, his lawyers have made repeated requests to a penal court in Ankara that it release him, arguing in recent weeks that to do so would be in the interest of free and fair elections next month.

The former Co-leader of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is competing with incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the run-up to elections that will be held on June 24.

In interviews from prison, he has complained of unfair conditions as the country goes to snap polls Erdogan himself has requested.

His other rivals, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem Ince, ultra-nationalist IYI Party’s Meral Aksener, and Islamist Temel Karamollaoglu have said Demirtas should be freed.

Authorities hold him in a jail in the Edirne Province over accusations of “terrorism” and “separatism”—charges he denies.

Police arrested the candidate along with a dozen HDP lawmakers in late 2016 in overnight house raids that spanned several provinces.

It marked the beginning of a wider crackdown on the Kurdish movement in Turkey that would continue with mass arrests of some 80 mayors, at least 5,000 party members, NGO representatives, and over 160 journalists.

Prosecutors ask for up to 142 years of imprisonment in various cases against Demirtas.

They are related to his meetings with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrilla commanders during the 2013-2015 peace negotiations with Ankara, election campaign speeches, and various remarks considered insults to Erdogan.

Demirtas insists he is a politician and cannot be jailed for his political activities.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany