Turkish gov't labelling all critics as terrorists, says Demirtaş's wife

The Turkish government is designating every critic of it as a terrorist, from students at Boğaziçi University to members of the country’s top health association, Başak Demirtaş, the wife of jailed prominent Kurdish politician, Selahattin Demirtaş, said on Sunday.

Ankara has used the pandemic as an excuse to dial up restrictions in Turkey’s prisons, she told journalist Fatih Portakal in an interview on his YouTube channel, where she criticised the government’s refusal to follow the ECHR’s ruling for the release of her husband.

The Turkish government jailed Demirtaş, the former head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), during a period ofemergency rule in Nov. 2016, accusing him of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has waged an armed struggle for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984.

The 47-year-old faces dozens of terror-related charges carrying combined sentences that could exceed 140 years. Demirtaş’s arrest is part of a years-long crackdown on the HDP, which has seen dozens of elected mayors removed from office and thousands of members jailed.

"What is being done to Selahattin, is being done to everyone,’’ Başak Demirtaş said. "There is virtually nobody left that has not been branded a terrorist among those criticise the government.’’

Başak Demirtaş referred specifically to the case of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), Turkey’s leading medical group critical of the government’s pandemic response whose chair, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erdoğan has gone on record to accuse of being a terrorist. The Turkish president has even labelled as terrorists the students at Boğaziçi students protesting the appointing of a government-linked rector, Başak Demirtaş recalled.

The jailed Kurdish politician’s wife also blasted the government for its appeal of an ECHR ruling calling for her husband’s release."If the ECHR ruling is not binding, then why have you appealed it?’’ she asked, referring to Turkey’s appeal of the ECHR first ruling on Demirtaş in 2018.

The ECHR ruled again on Dec. 22 that Turkey must immediately release Demirtaş, citing the government’s use of his four years in prison as a cover for limiting pluralism and debate in the country.