Jailed Kurdish politician Demirtaş to receive int’l award for political courage

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The Progressive Alliance, a German-based political entity that includes more than 130 parties and organizations, will bestow its “Award for Special Political Courage” for the year 2019 on Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been behind bars since November 2016, the Bianet news website reported.

HDP Foreign Relations Officer Hişyar Özsoy told Bianet that the awards ceremony will take place in Stockholm on Nov.15.

The Kurdish politician was an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, before he was jailed. He ran twice in presidential elections held in 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan. Demirtaş conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 presidential election.

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.

Last month, a high criminal court in Ankara ruled to release Demirtaş pending trial, but he was not allowed to leave prison since he had been convicted in another case.

In the meantime, the Progressive Alliance was founded on May 22, 2013, in Leipzig, Germany. It has over 130 members around the world. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the HDP are members of the alliance from Turkey.

According to its website, the Progressive Alliance aims to ensure gender equality, counter increased inequality in societies, fight for LGBTQ rights and against intolerance and racism, restrain rampant unruly financial markets with clear regulations and fight tax fraud, curb climate change with the urgency required and promote sustainable economic, social and ecological development, secure peace and human rights as global public goods, advocate disarmament and stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and eradicate hunger and poverty once and for all.

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