Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) jailed presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş on Monday challenged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over remarks he made on the “Kobani protests,” during which 53 people died, and capital punishment, saying he has never been sued over the deaths in the Kobani protests.
Accusing Demirtaş of responsibility for the deaths of 53 people during street protests in 2014, Erdoğan at an election rally in Kocaeli on Sunday said Demirtaş was deserving of the death penalty, saying he would have approved legislation immediately if the Turkish parliament had voted to bring back capital punishment.
Demonstrations began in Turkey’s Southeast in reaction to efforts by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants to besiege Kobani, a Kurdish town in Syria near the Turkish border. The protests later morphed into fierce clashes between pro and anti-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) groups in which 53 people were killed.
“Neither me nor the HDP has ever been sued over the deaths that occurred during the Kobani protests,” Demirtaş tweeted on Monday with the heading “Erdoğan’s Kobani lies.”
Refusing calls for Demirtaş’s release to enable a fair presidential election, Erdoğan in the eastern province of Adıyaman on June 1 said: “Who are you releasing? The person in jail [Demirtaş] has the blood of 53 citizens on his hands.”
Correcting the number of people killed to 43 including 33 HDP supporters, six Free Cause Party (HÜDA PAR) supporters, two Syrian refugees and two security force members, Demirtaş said: “During the five months following the Kobani events, our meetings with Erdoğan and [his ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP over the settlement process [to resolve the Kurdish problem] continued. In other words, Erdoğan continued to meet for five months with us, who he now labels ‘terrorists’.”
Demirtaş also said 12 motions submitted by the HDP for investigation of provocateurs and instigators of the Kobani incidents were rejected by AKP votes in parliament.
The HDP’s candidate ended his flood of tweets with a call to Erdoğan: “O Erdoğan! This is the biggest opportunity in political history: I will withdraw my presidential candidacy if you can put the call you claim I made for the killing of 53 people below this tweet by June 24.”
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.