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Jailed presidential candidate says Turkey's Erdogan has created an ‘empire of fear’

JAILED Turkish presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas described himself as a “political hostage” during a special “one-person rally” broadcast via a telephone call to his wife Basak yesterday.

The former People’s Democratic Party (HDP) leader’s voice was heard for the first time during the presidential campaign as he used his family’s phone call to give an election message to the country.

A video was produced by the HDP in which Mr Demirtas warned that Turkey “has been transformed into a semi-open prison” under authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he charged with creating an “empire of fear.”

Mr Demirtas has been held in Erdine prison since his arrest in November 2016 on trumped-up charges of terrorism. He faces a 142-year jail term if convicted.

He accused government officials of running smear campaigns against him through the media by making “all kinds of fabricated allegations,” adding that his situation was only one example of how Turkey’s people in general are becoming “victims of injustice.”

Nonetheless, he stressed that it was “not the time to be defeated or fearful” and that the situation was “not our inevitable fate.”

In what appeared to be a reference to Mr Erdogan’s attacks on Turkey’s Kurdish population and aggressive foreign policy, he said: “The country is being torn apart through polarisation and divisions from the inside [and] it has also been turned into an isolated and disreputable state on the outside.”

But he promised: “Without demonising, marginalising or hampering any citizen, we will become a unified country” and “will not divide up people on basis of their political party, identity, sect or gender.”

Mr Demirtas said the state belonged to all and everyone should be treated equally as he  promised the return of democracy and the rule of law to Turkey.

“I am here within four walls, but I know that thousands of Demirtas are out in fields, on farms, picking hazelnuts. Demirtas is in the mine, in the factory. He is in class, at university, on the ground. Demirtas is on construction sites, on strikes, in protests. 

“He is the sacked, he is the unemployed, the poor. He is the youth, the woman and the child. He is Turkish, Kurdish, Circassian, Pomak, Bosnian. He is Alevi, Sunni, but he is still hopeful and vigorous,” he said.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are due on June 24.


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