In a development unprecedented anywhere the world, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been in pretrial detention in Turkey since November 2016, held a news conference on Twitter on Friday.
Turkey will hold snap presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24.
Turkish and foreign journalists asked their questions to Demirtaş, who is currently jailed in Edirne Prison, from their Twitter accounts in Turkish, Kurdish and English.
The questions were relayed to Demirtaş by his lawyers who then posted the presidential candidate’s answers on his Twitter account on Friday.
Norwegian journalist Ingeborg H. Amundsen asked Demirtaş: “Hi, Demirtaş! This is Inge from the Norwegian newspaper VG. I’m wondering: How will you become president when your locked up in a prison cell? And do you think the ruling president [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] sees your candidacy as a threat?”
In response, Demirtaş said: “If I receive enough votes, I will be the President even if I’m in prison. But I can not campaign from inside here as I’m a hostage. That’s the problem. If I were out there, I’d be much more capable. Yes, the AKP [Justice and Development Party] and Erdoğan are most afraid of me, and that’s why I am here.”
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. He is facing terror charges.
A Canadian journalist named Kristina Jovanovski asked Demirtaş whether he expects the election to be free and fair. “Will you tell your supporters to respect the results, regardless of the outcome? Why do you think the opposition parties didn’t want you in their alliance?” the journalist asked, referring to the HDP’s exclusion from two election alliances set up by the other political parties in Turkey.
“It is obvious that the elections are unfair even by the fact that I answer your questions from prison. Surely, everyone will respect the results, but if fraud or unlawfulness is detected, there will definitely be legal action,” Demirtaş replied.
Another journalist, Süheyla Kaplan, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is silent before the upcoming elections in Turkey and what could be the reason for this.
“The more Europe criticizes Erdoğan, the more his vote increases [among Turks] in Europe, do you agree with this?” she asked.
Demirtaş replied jokingly: “It cannot be said that Merkel is very silent. I heard rumors that she is expecting a visit by Erdoğan to Germany after June 24. I will make a surprise for her and go there as the president.”
After answering all the questions, Demirtaş said it had been a different kind of news conference.
“I think this is a first in the world. Thanks to everyone together with whom we made this first happen,” he wrote.
Many, including his rivals Muharrem İnce, Meral Akşener and Temel Karamollaoğlu, have been calling for Demirtaş’s release during the presidential campaign so the election can take place in a democratic environment and under equal conditions for all presidential candidates.
However, a request for the release of Demirtaş from jail in the run-up to the June 24 presidential election was rejected by an Ankara high criminal court on May 21.
On May 29, Demirtaş’s lawyers applied to Turkey’s Constitutional Court for his release.
Demirtaş ran against Erdoğan in the 2014 presidential election and lost. However, he has remained one of the most popular political figures in Turkey.