Jailed pro-Kurdish candidate hits back at Turkey’s Erdoğan over execution threat

The jailed pro-Kurdish candidate in Turkey’s June 24 presidential elections, Selahattin Demirtaş, accused President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of using the threat of execution as a campaigning tool, independent news site Diken reported.

Demirtaş has been imprisoned for 19 months while on trial for multiple terrorism-related charges. He and four other opposition candidates are hoping to stop Erdoğan, in power since 2003, getting the more than 50 percent of the vote he needs and force a run-off election.

Erdoğan told an election rally this week that if parliament were to demand the death sentence against Demirtaş, he would sign it. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as part of its now long-dormant bid to join the European Union. Erdoğan has threatened to bring it back.

“Erdoğan says he’s going have me executed if he’s elected. It’s the year 2018 and look at the election promise made by Turkey’s presidential candidate to voters,” Demirtaş said on Twitter. “I will gladly sacrifice my life 1,000 times for our people.”

Erdoğan has accused Demirtaş of being responsible for the deaths of 53 protesters killed in clashes with police after the former Peoples’ Democratic Party leader called for protests in October 2014 against what many Kurds saw as Turkish support for Islamic State militants attacking the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani.