“[The opposition says Demirtaş] should be released because he is a presidential candidate. What does that mean? There should be some criteria for being a presidential candidate … It should be corrected, God willing,” Erdoğan said at a campaign rally in the northern province of Trabzon on June 13.
He suggested that the HDP candidate is being tried for “serious crimes that necessitate the dismissal of his nomination.”
Demirtaş has been in prison since November 2016 in a case in which he is being tried for “leading a terrorist organization.” As his trial is still ongoing and there is no conviction against him yet, the Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) has approved his candidacy and opposition parties have supported his release for the campaign period.
Erdoğan criticized the YSK’s ruling, saying “it has been argued that he is not convicted, he is only imprisoned. But the reason for imprisonment is very important.”
The president accuses the former HDP co-leader of inciting deadly street protests in October 2014, arguing that “he called on Kurdish people to hit the streets after the June 7 election [in 2015] and 53 of our people then died.”
Demirtaş had responded Erdoğan’s accusations on June 11, saying the street protests long pre-dated the June 7, 2015 elections as they took place on Oct. 7, 2014 and there has been no criminal case filed against either him or any HDP officials regarding the incidents.
“There isn’t a single case filed against either me or HDP officials for the Kobane incidents. All of our [HDP deputies] demanded an official parliamentary investigation into the instigators behind the Kobane protests but this request was denied by AKP lawmakers,” he added in a statement issued via Twitter.
“The number of people who died in the protests is 43, not 53,” Demirtaş said, noting that no investigation has been initiated over any of the deaths apart from those of the six members of the religious Kurdish party Hüda-Par.