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Jailed Kurdish politician Demirtaş urges support for opposition’s İstanbul mayoral candidate

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Former co-chairperson of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been behind bars since November 2016, has called on his party’s base to support the opposition’s mayoral candidate in İstanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, according to Turkish media reports.

In a series of messages from his Twitter account, which is managed by his lawyers, Demirtaş said: “Little time is left before the İstanbul mayoral election, a forced repetition. I am sure what is necessary is being done in the field. I think there is no confusion or uncertainty [as to who to vote for]. There should be none of this in my opinion.”

İmamoğlu was elected İstanbul mayor in polls on March 31, taking control of Turkey’s financial powerhouse after 25 years of rule by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its predecessors. His term as mayor lasted only 18 days as the Supreme Election Council annulled the results of the vote due to AKP appeals claiming irregularities in the election.

A repeat election will be held in İstanbul on June 23.

“I believe the discourse of Mr. İmamoğlu should be supported today because we are beautiful together. Without the HDP and by excluding it, nothing can be OK,” Demirtaş said, referring to İmamoğlu’s campaign slogan, “Everything is going to be OK.”

A Turkish court found Demirtaş guilty in September 2018 of disseminating terrorist propaganda and sentenced him to four years, eight months in prison.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in November of the same year 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 for disseminating terrorist propaganda.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan frequently accuses HDP politicians of being terrorists due to the party’s alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s Southeast since 1984.

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