Former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, in prison in Turkey since November 2016, was on Saturday flown to visit his critically ill father in hospital, MedyaScope news site reports.
Kurdish political prisoners, especially those connected to the HDP, which Turkey sees as being linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), are frequently denied fundamental rights, amid the right to visit critically ill relatives.
Elections are approaching in Turkey in which the Kurdish vote is expected to play a key role, and Demirtaş’s visit has been allowed a few days after a major poll showing that majority of Kurdish voters are turning away from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The permission granted by the Ministry of Justice for Demirtaş to leave prison for the first time since 2016 has been interpreted as part of a possible change in the attitude of the ruling party towards the HDP in the Turkish political scene, as the AKP sees the numbers of their Kurdish votes dropping drastically.
Demirtaş has been in prison in Edirne province, northwest Turkey since November 2016, and his parents, who live over 1,000 miles away in Diyarbakır (Amed) in the southeast of the country, have been unable to visit him for the last two years due to health reasons. After his father’s heart attack, the lawyers team made a formal application to the Ministry of Justice for Demirtaş to be allowed to visit. After a 45-minute visit, he was flown back to prison.
The Demirtaş Defence Group said afterwards,
“On the night of 12 November our client Mr Demirtaş was taken from Edirne Prison to Diyarbakır, with permission granted by law because of critically ill relatives, and he was returned to Edirne after a short visit.
Our client and his family would like to extend their thanks to the medical team and all those who have assisted.”
Recently, an AKP delegation headed by Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ visited the party groups and the HDP, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Good (IYI) Party groups in preparation for a Constitutional amendment.
The visit of the AKP to the HDP group was met with criticism from the opposition wing. İyi Party Chairwoman Meral Akşener criticised HDP for the meeting.
The Nation Alliance, known as table of six, includes six opposition parties but excludes the HDP. Akşener has previously stated that she would never sit at a table with the HDP.
Responding to criticisms following the AKP-HDP meeting, Demirtaş wrote at Artı Gerçek on 8 November that there was no need to overemphasise this meeting, and that no one could ignore the political power of HDP.
“Rather than reaping the benefit from this meeting and starting an urgent conversation with the HDP, the representative of legitimate politics, the opposition chose to turn it into a frenzy of attrition against the AKP, and of implicit criminalisation of the HDP.”