Turkish Constitutional Court rejects release of jailed Kurdish candidate for president

Erdogan, the incumbent President, over the weekend suggested that his rival Selahattin Demirtas should be executed.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey’s top court on Wednesday rejected an appeal to free Selahattin Demirtas, a candidate for president and the country’s prominent Kurdish politician, from jail where authorities hold him since late 2016 over various charges based on his political activities and speeches.

Demirtas’ lawyers who argued their clients’ right to vote and stand for elections was “gravely violated” had asked the Constitutional Court for his release pending trial, Kurdistan 24’s Ankara bureau reported.

Left-wing opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) says the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration is using the judiciary to keep its former Co-leader Demirtas as a hostage.

Some 59 million people in Turkey and abroad will be voting in upcoming general and presidential elections on June 24.

“The applicant’s request had to be refused due to the fact that there was no case immediately with a threat to his life and bodily well-being or spiritual integrity," the 17-membered court said.

Prosecutors ask for up to 142 years of imprisonment for Demirtas who the Turkish state accuses of Kurdish separatism and membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

No court has convicted Demirtas of any of the political crimes leveled against him yet.

A regional court earlier this year fined him 15,000 Liras (3,980 USD) over a 2016 speech which the judges deemed an insult to Erdogan.

In a veiled threat over the weekend, Erdogan said if authorized he would sign the death sentence for his rival, which requires the reintroduction of capital punishment in the Turkish law.

This is the first time in modern Turkey’s history and the only current such case in the world that a candidate is running for president from behind bars.

Last month, the Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey refused to allow Demirtas to talk to a live political TV show via a payphone in prison.

Erdogan on Wednesday called for a change in criteria to be nominated for the presidency, saying it was “wrong” that Demirtas could run against him because he was a “murderer of my Kurdish brothers.”

“This has to be corrected. They say he is not convicted but detained. The reason behind detention matters. These [people] need an Ottoman slap. But in the ballot box,” he told supporters during a rally of his ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the city of Trabzon.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany