Jailed Kurdish politician pens letter for Le Monde, asks for international solidarity

The former head of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, penned a letter for Le Monde newspaper from his prison cell and called for international solidarity during the next hearing of his trial next week, Artı Gerçek reported on Saturday.

“As of that moment, almost 5,000 members of my party HDP have been arrested. Today 58 mayors and nine deputies, including me, are in jail,” Demirtaş said. 

“For our freedom of expression, our right to make politics, the open discrimination we face because of our Kurdish identity, and our personal security, I ask your support and solidarity today,” the Kurdish politician said. 

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) asked Turkey last month to release Demirtaş and ruled that Turkey sought to limit democratic freedoms and political debate by interning the Kurdish politician, who was arrested in November 2016 over terrorism charges.

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a response said that his country was not bound by ECHR decisions and it would take counter actions.

A Turkish appeals court on Tuesday upheld a four-year-and-eight-month prison sentence for Demirtaş in another case over charges of spreading propaganda on behalf of an armed terrorist group. The court’s decision effectively prevented the implementation of ECHR’s decision.

The same court also approved a three-year-and-six-month prison sentence for another former HDP lawmaker, Sırrı Süreyya Önder.

Önder was sent to prison in the northwestern province of Kocaeli on Thursday. 

“We are behind everything that we said. Salutations to all friends. Peace and democracy will prevail,” Önder told journalists before his entry to the prison.

The two lawmakers were sentenced for praising Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), during their speeches in March 2013, when a peace process was launched by the Turkish government to resolve the Kurdish issue and Öcalan called for the withdrawal of PKK forces from Turkey.