Jailed HDP co-chair Demirtaş won’t stand again for party chairmanship

Jailed HDP co-chair Demirtaş won’t stand again for party chairmanship

Pınar Erdoğan - ANKARA
Jailed HDP co-chair Demirtaş won’t stand again for party chairmanship

Selahattin Demirtaş, the imprisoned co-leader of the Kurdish issue-focused People’s Democratic Party (HDP), will not stand as a nominee for the party’s leadership for the upcoming congress to be held in February.

Demirtaş sent a letter from the Edirne Prison to the HDP headquarters via his lawyers, stating that he would not be standing again for the party leadership.

“I want it to be known that I will not be a candidate for co-leadership in the upcoming congress,” he wrote, according to a letter obtained by the Hürriyet Daily News on Jan. 4.

“Even though my official position within our party does not legally allow me even to be a member [due to the jail term], I will never refrain from serving our precious people and HDP with the responsibility and enthusiasm of a co-leader,” Demirtaş added.

Demirtaş was arrested on Nov. 4, 2016 along with 10 other HDP members as a part of an investigation on terror allegations.

The first hearing of the case was held after 13 months pre-trial detention in December 2017, with the prosecutors demanding up to 142 years in jail over “leadership of a terrorist organization,” membership of a terrorist organization” and “inciting people to hatred and animosity.”

A total of over 30 summaries of proceedings have been issued against his name. Most recently an Ankara court on Jan. 2 issued 15,000 Turkish Lira fine to Demirtaş for “insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.”

Demirtaş was elected as the leader of the HDP in 2014 along with Figen Yüksekdağ, who had to step down from her co-leadership post after she was convicted and her lawmaker status was stripped in March 2017.

Along with Yüksekdağ five other former lawmakers have also been stripped of their MP status over terror-related offences: Besime Konca, Nursel Aydoğan, Tuğba Hezer Öztürk and Faysal Sarıyıldız.

There are currently hundreds of summaries of proceedings against 50 HDP lawmakers in parliament and eight lawmakers are currently in jail. Thousands of party members have also been jailed and local municipalities run by the party in the southeast have been replaced by Ankara-appointed administrators.

Turkey is due to hold presidential, parliamentary and local election in 2019 and in his letter Demirtaş stressed the need for the HDP to accelerate efforts to prepare and “renew.”

“In our regular congress to be held on Feb. 11, our Party Congress, Central Executive Board and other offices will be renewed in order to make them stronger,” he wrote.

“In order to face the new period of struggle more strongly, in order to provide a democratic culture for democratic politics, in order to develop an understanding of politics for the public rather than for a position, and in order to move forward with new enthusiasm and with new friends, I will not stand as a candidate,” Demirtaş added.