Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks on July 8 in Hamburg, Germany. Photo: Tobias Schwarz | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Selahattin Demirtas, the imprisoned co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey, was called a “terrorist” by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for making Erdogan’s “Kurdish brothers get killed by other Kurds.”
“We don’t have the authority to release terrorists from jail,” Erdogan said, in response to a reporter’s question regarding to Demirtas and Kurdish lawmakers, Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Erdogan, speaking on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany on Saturday, then referred to the October 2014 protests in various parts of Turkey, sparked by the seizure of the Syrian town of Kobane by ISIS.
“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,” Erdogan was quoted by
Demirtas visited Kobane in 2014 in a show solidarity to Kurds, later calling on the Turkish government to support the fight of Syrian Kurds against ISIS.
Three days of unrest between Kurds supporting HDP and the Free Cause Party (Huda-Par) led to curfews in Batman, Diyarbakir, Mardin, Van and Siirt.
Demirtas is accused of being responsible for and even “inciting” the deadly street violence and calling the subsequent military operations in southeastern Turkey "massacres.” He has been jailed since November 4, 2016,
“Demirtaş has committed many other crimes,” Erdogan said, alleging Demirtas’ connections to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), and the latter Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) paramilitary which he believes are connected to the PKK.
Shortly after Erdogan’s remarks, the HDP released a statement.
“Demirtas is the will of millions and the party’s co-chair. He is not a terrorist,” it read.
Demirtas has argued that he made the same comments on the streets that he has made in parliament and should be protected by immunity.
“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 statement added.
A Turkish court sentenced Demirtas to five months in jail on February 21 for “insulting Turkish nation, the state of Turkish Republic and public organs and institutions” in comments he made during a speech in Germany in 2015.
Demirtas was set to go to court on Friday, but was not taken after refusing to be shackled by Turkish guards. His next court date is set for November 24.
It previously was reported that prosecutors recommended in an indictment that Demirtas and former co-chair Figen Yuksekdag, should serve 43 to 142 and 30 to 83 years in prison, respectively, in line with the scope of a “terror case.”