An Ankara high criminal court has rejected a request for the release of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş from jail in the run-up to the June 24 presidential election, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Monday.
Demirtaş, who was arrested on terror charges in November 2016, is still in pre-trial detention. He has not yet been convicted of any crime.
HDP Batman deputy Ayşe Acar and a group of lawyers on May 15 petitioned the Ankara 19th High Criminal Court, which is hearing Demirtaş’s trial, for his release on judicial probation during the presidential campaign period. The court ruled for the continuation of the imprisonment of Demirtaş on the grounds that there were overriding reasons that prevented his release on judicial probation.
Many, including his rivals Muharrem İnce, Meral Akşener and Temel Karamollaoğlu, have been calling for Demirtaş’s release during the presidential campaign so the election can take place in a democratic environment and under equal conditions for all presidential candidates.
Demirtaş’s campaign will reportedly appeal to voters of all parties and highlight a process of normalization in Turkey. If he is not released from prison, Demirtaş will conduct his campaign with messages sent from prison through his lawyers.
Demirtaş ran against incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the 2014 presidential election and lost. However, he has remained one of the most popular political figures in Turkey.
Erdoğan is the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) presidential candidate for the June 24 election.