Erdogan calls for his Kurdish rival to be tried ‘quickly’

A brochure shows Selahattin Demirtas, pro-Kurdish Peoples's Democratic Party (HDP) presidential candidate, who is campaigning from his prison cell in Turkey's presidential election set for June 24
AFP

Istanbul (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Sunday for the courts to “quickly” try his jailed Kurdish rival who has been campaigning for this month’s presidential elections from his cell.

With Turks set to vote on June 24, Erdogan has stepped up his attacks against Selahattin Demirtas, the former co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and still by far its most prominent figure.

“This man is currently in preventive detention, right? Yes, he’s locked up. Frankly, it’s necessary for justice to render its decision quickly,” Erdogan said at a meeting in the northwest province of Kocaeli.

Demirtas, 45, has been incarcerated since November 2016 accused of “terrorist” activities — which he denies — for his alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Other opponents of Erdogan have called for Demirtas to be released so he can campaign for the elections.

“His party campaigns for him. It’s more than he deserves,” said Erdogan, who is seeking re-election as Turkey’s president.

A former human rights lawyer Demirtas won almost 10 percent of the vote in the presidential elections of 2014, establishing himself as a serious rival to Erdogan.

From his cell on Sunday, Demirtas reacted on Twitter denouncing Erdogan’s attacks as “despicable slander”.

“In the face of your baseness, the people will give in my name the most brilliant response at the ballot box on June 24,” he tweeted.

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