Jailed Kurdish politician denied further medical care despite emergency episode

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In this handout photo provided by the pro-Kurdish Peoples's Democratic Party (HDP), former party leader Selahattin Demirtas and current Turkish presidential candidate, sits in prison in Edirne on May 4, 2018. The HDP announced the nomination of Demirtas for the upcoming presidential elections in Turkey, scheduled for June 24, 2018. Demirtas, who has been behind bars since November 2016, is in prison accused of links to outlawed Kurdish rebels and is facing a 142-year sentence on charges of leading a terror organization. It's unclear if Turkey's electoral board will approve Demirtas's candidacy. / AFP PHOTO / Kurdish Peoples's Democratic Party (HDP) / HANDOUT

Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş temporarily lost consciousness on Nov. 26 after experiencing pain in his chest and trouble breathing but was not referred to specialists for further examination after receiving basic emergency treatment, his lawyer and sister Aygül Demirtaş has said.

Demirtaş has been behind bars since November 2016. He was co-chairperson of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) when the other co-chairperson and several other Kurdish politicians were also arrested on terrorism charges.

Aygül Demirtaş tweeted that Demirtaş temporarily lost consciousness due to pain in his chest and had difficulty breathing. She said his cellmate Abdullah Zeydan, a former HDP deputy, sought help. An ambulance was called and Demirtaş was taken to the emergency ward of a nearby hospital in Edirne.

The lawyer said the Kurdish politician only underwent an electrocardiogram at the emergency ward and was denied a thorough examination at a clinic despite his request for one.

Aygül Demirtaş said her brother has not been sent to a hospital although the prison doctor also recommended his referral to the cardiology, neurology and gastroenterology departments of a hospital. She said she and Demirtaş’s other lawyers have asked the prison administration to ensure that he has immediate access to necessary medical care but that their requests have not been fulfilled.

The lawyer said her brother is being placed at risk and that his lawyers are concerned about his well being.

The Kurdish politician was an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, before he was jailed. He ran twice against Erdoğan in presidential elections held in 2014 and 2018. 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.

In September, 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.

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