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Jailed Kurdish politician denies bargaining with AKP for his release

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Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chairperson of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has denied claims that the HDP is bargaining with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for his release in return for Kurdish support in the upcoming İstanbul mayoral election, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Monday.

Responding to questions from journalists through his lawyers from Edirne Prison, where he has been jailed since November 2016 on terrorism charges, Demirtaş said if he had been the kind of politician who bargains with the AKP, he would not be in jail now.

There will be a repeat mayoral election in İstanbul on June 23. Although Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) mayoral candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu won the election in İstanbul in the March 31 local elections, the country’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) cancelled the election results in a controversial decision on May 6 due to an objection filed by the AKP.

Before the March 31 elections, Demirtaş called on Kurdish voters to vote for İmamoğlu over the AKP candidate, Binali Yıldırım, a former prime minister.

Demirtaş, who was responding to a question from journalist Selin Girit, who asked about the claims of bargaining with the AKP, said: “I don’t know how you see it on the outside, but I have nothing to say to those who insist on seeing us as the party of cheap and unprincipled acts of bargaining, despite the fact that we are putting up the strongest struggle against fascism and are paying a heavy price. … If I had been the kind of person who would get involved in bargaining as you mentioned in your question, I would not have been in jail for two-and-a-half years.”

Last September a court found Demirtaş guilty of disseminating terrorist propaganda and sentenced him to four years, eight months in prison.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on Nov. 20 that Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was a political act and ordered his release. Turkish courts refused to implement the European court’s ruling, and a regional appeals court in Turkey on Dec. 4 upheld Demirtaş’s sentence.

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