Presidential candidate Demirtaş gives first campaign speech from prison

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The first of two 10-minute campaign speeches by jailed Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş was aired by public broadcaster TRT on Sunday, his first appearance on TV since his detention in November 2016.

“In this election campaign, which will be considered a disgrace for our political history, unfortunately, I have been forced to address you from Edirne F-Type High Security Prison,” Demirtaş said, opening his address.

Earlier this month, the HDP had applied to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) for the recording of Demirtaş’s TRT speeches at TRT’s Ankara studios like the other candidates; however, the YSK denied the request.

“The reason behind my presence here is that the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP is afraid of me,” Demirtaş said.

“If the tyranny and unlawfulness inflicted on me was only limited to me, I wouldn’t see them as being necessary to mention. However, you experience such tyranny and unlawfulness every day, or have seen them experienced near you,” he added.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently rejected calls to release Demirtaş during the election campaign, labeling him a “terrorist.”

“What we have been through these days is only the hint of one-man rule. The terrible part hasn’t yet started,” Demirtaş said.

He called on young people to volunteer at polling stations in order to prevent fraud in vote counting.

“Their lives could depend on one vote,” Demirtaş also said, referring to the current government.

Following this comment, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Monday during a TV program on TRT argued that Demirtaş had threatened them with death.

At the end of his speech, Demirtaş also saluted the workers of state-run TRT while criticizing the top management of the public broadcaster for unfair election coverage.

The state-run Anadolu news agency described Demirtaş’s TRT speech as “a first in the history of democracy,” seeing it as a mature act of Turkish democracy.

“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine as long as you’re fine. I’ll be free as long as you are free,” Demirtaş added.

The TRT speech was also shown in İstanbul’s Bakırköy district where the HDP held a rally on Sunday.

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