Wife of ailing, jailed Kurdish leader Demirtas relays message after visit

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Wladimir van Wilgenburg

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Basak Demirtas tweeted on Saturday that she had visited her husband, jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, who was earlier taken to the hospital after collapsing in his prison cell.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)’s former co-chair lost consciousness after having breathing difficulties and chest pain on Nov. 26, sources close to him asserted.

“We visited Selahattin yesterday. He was enraged and saddened because of the recent developments. Yet again he sent out his sincere greetings,” she wrote.

Initially, the Turkish authorities refused to transfer Demirtas to a medical care facility, against a prison doctor’s recommendations. But he was eventually allowed to visit a hospital for a health check following public criticism of Turkish authorities for not granting Demirtas access to emergency treatment.

However, he was returned to prison within a few hours after visiting the hospital.

In her post, she said that “thousands of families do not have the opportunity to visit their imprisoned relatives, because they are many kilometers away.”

Since the collapse of a peace process between the government and the Kurdistan Workers Party in 2015, 16,300 HDP members have been detained and 3,500 of those have been imprisoned, the HDP says, as reported by the news website Ahval.

On Saturday, four elected mayors from the HDP were also replaced with government-appointed mayors.

“There are old parents who have not seen their children for years. We hope that politicians and the public opinion will be sensitive in order to end this oppression,” she said.

The Turkish government accuses the HDP of having close ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an allegation it has used to justify its crackdown on Kurdish politicians. The HDP denies links to the group, which has been fighting a decades-long insurgency against Ankara over Kurdish rights in Turkey.

Turkish police arrested Demirtas along with 10 other MPs in simultaneous night raids across several provinces on Nov. 4, 2016, with charges of terrorism and separatism based on various public speeches they had delivered.

In a larger, ongoing case, prosecutors have asked up to 142 years for him in different probes, including one involving accusations he insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but no conviction has been delivered.

The 19th Assize Court of Ankara “ruled unanimously” on Sept. 2 for the release of the former HDP co-chair, the party said on its official Twitter page at the time.

“Demirtas should be released immediately,” it added, noting the politician had been “unlawfully imprisoned.”

But that same month, Turkish prosecutors launched a new investigation requesting his continued imprisonment. Nevertheless, Basak Demirtas on Saturday thanked everyone who “who conveyed their messages” in support of Demirtas.

“You gave me morale; you gave me strength. Thank you.”

Editing by John J. Catherine

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