Turkey refuses to allow imprisoned Demirtas talk to TV on payphone

The Kurdish politician running for president hoped to participate in a political TV show from prison.

ERBIL (Kurdistan24) – Authorities in Turkey refused to allow imprisoned presidential candidate and leading Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas to be hosted on Wednesday by a political television show in which he would discuss his vision and promises to voters who head to the polls in less than a month.

Demirtas had earlier requested via his lawyers to use his weekly 10-minute right to a phone call to join a live news program at the privately-owned FOX TV, Kurdistan 24’s Ankara bureau said.

Members of the Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey rejected the request by the former Co-chair of opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), saying the authority to allow him was with the Justice Ministry.

Running against the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from behind bars, Demirtas has criticized the government for an unfair playing field as he is unable to hold rallies for the June 24 snap elections the former announced.

Held at a supermax prison in the northwestern province of Edirne over charges of “terrorism and separatism” for his speeches, he remains in touch with the outside world via his lawyers’ use of social media and media which submit written questions.

HDP’s Co-chairs Sezai Temelli and Pervin Buldan, though, were able to appear on FOX, thus breaking an embargo for the first time in years by the mainstream media much of which is controlled by businesspersons with close ties to Erdogan’s administration.

A group of journalists repeatedly asked Temelli and Buldan about the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and pressed them to answer if they call it a “terrorist group,” which they refused.

Temelli said Turkey was not democratic and the fact a presidential candidate kept in prison while there was not a single conviction against him could not call a TV program on a payphone was evidence.

“Who put these obstacles in place? The very [Turkish] state,” he said.

Along with Demirtas, over 5,000 HDP members including seven lawmakers and 80 mayors remain jailed as trials against them of PKK membership or propaganda continue as a part of a government crackdown since the collapse of 2013-2015 peace talks between Kurdish rebels and Ankara.

Eleven MPs of the pro-Kurdish party have also been ousted from the Parliament.

Demirtas who prosecutors ask up to 142 years of imprisonment also answered questions sent via his lawyers.

He denied any organizational ties with the PKK and said the address for a solution to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict was the Parliament.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany