President Erdoğan calls Turkey’s jailed opposition co-chair Demirtaş a ‘terrorist’
HAMBURG/ANKARASpeaking at a meeting in Hamburg at the end of the G-20 summit on July 8, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a “terrorist.”
“We don’t have the authority to release terrorists from jail,” Erdoğan said in a press conference, upon a reporter’s question regarding “Demirtaş and Kurdish lawmakers.”
“Turkey is a state of law. The person you mentioned is a terrorist. He is such a terrorist that encouraged my Kurdish brothers to spill onto the streets and thus made 53 of my Kurdish brothers get killed by other Kurds. That is only one of his crimes,” he added, referring to the October 2014 protests in parts of Turkey, sparked by the seizure of the Syrian town of Kobane by the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Erdoğan said “Demirtaş has committed many other crimes” and claimed he has links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), and the latter’s People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.
“This is a person who makes challenges like ‘We have the PKK, the PYD and the YPG behind us.’ Anyway, the issue is being addressed in the justice system. We welcome any ruling the judiciary issues regarding them [jailed HDP lawmakers],” he added.
In addition to Demirtaş, former HDP co-chair and lawmaker Figen Yüksekdağ and nine HDP lawmakers are in jail and face hundreds of years in prison over alleged links to the PKK.
The HDP released a statement shortly after Erdoğan’s remarks, saying Demirtaş is the “will of millions and the party’s co-chair. He is not a terrorist.”
“He is a lawmaker. He is an honorable person who was a candidate for the presidency. He won a place in the hearts and minds of the peoples living in Turkey with his struggle and ideas. He is a person and politician who became a symbol of hope,” the HDP statement read on July 8.
“Erdoğan is openly intervening in the judiciary and ongoing legal cases with such a statement … It’s completely unacceptable for a president to speak like this. We condemn Erdoğan’s statement in the harshest possible way.” it added.
The HDP also vowed to “hold the statements to account politically and in the international law arena.”
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also criticized President Erdoğan’s remarks, saying “no politician, industrialist or business owner can decide on who is guilty or not.”
“This decision is given by the judiciary. However, Erdoğan declares everyone to be ‘terrorists’ and puts himself in the position of the judiciary. Judges, in turn, issue their rulings depending on that,” Kılıçdaroğlu told Deutsche Welle on July 9.