Demirtaş says gov’t pressuring courts to keep him in prison

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In this handout photo provided by the pro-Kurdish Peoples's Democratic Party (HDP), former party leader Selahattin Demirtas and current Turkish presidential candidate, sits in prison in Edirne on May 4, 2018. The HDP announced the nomination of Demirtas for the upcoming presidential elections in Turkey, scheduled for June 24, 2018. Demirtas, who has been behind bars since November 2016, is in prison accused of links to outlawed Kurdish rebels and is facing a 142-year sentence on charges of leading a terror organization. It's unclear if Turkey's electoral board will approve Demirtas's candidacy. / AFP PHOTO / Kurdish Peoples's Democratic Party (HDP) / HANDOUT

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş on Sunday said the government is keeping him in prison to guarantee victory in snap elections on June 24, underlining that all the courts including the Constitutional Court have been under pressure not to release him.

Demirtaş, who has been in prison in Edirne province since November 2016, issued a statement from his Twitter account about the upcoming elections.

“It has become clear that the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party] will lose the elections. That’s the reason they are aggressively targeting me at the last moment. Even pro-government polling companies cannot save the situation,” said Demirtaş.

“They won the April 16 [2017] referendum by jailing us and plotting and committing fraud. In order to win on June 24, they are keeping me in prison. They put pressure on all the courts including the Constitutional Court towards this end,” he added, underling that “some judges involved in [my] case have come to the point of resignation and even suicide.”

Claiming that this era would end with the June 24 elections, the HDP candidate warned those who “perpetrate crimes for the AKP: You will get yourself into a lot of trouble.”

Demirtaş expressed that Turkey will take a breath of relief if the HDP passes the 10 percent threshold and gets into parliament.

Amid growing calls for the release of the HDP candidate from pretrial detention, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday said Demirtaş’s release from prison is impossible because he is responsible for the deaths of 53 people during street protests in Turkey’s Southeast in 2014.

Demirtaş was the HDP’s co-chairperson when he was jailed on Nov. 4, 2016 along with several other party deputies as well as the party’s other co-chairperson, Figen Yüksekdağ.

Turkey will hold snap presidential and general elections on June 24, a year and a half earlier than originally scheduled.

Demirtaş, who faces terror charges, is still in pretrial detention and has not been convicted of any crime.

Many, including other presidential candidates, have been calling for Demirtaş’s release during the presidential campaign period so the election can take place in a democratic environment and under equal conditions for all the presidential candidates.

On May 21, an Ankara high criminal court rejected a request for the release of Demirtaş from jail in the run-up to the June 24 presidential election.

On May 29, Demirtaş’s lawyers applied to Turkey’s Constitutional Court for his release.

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