Kurdish leader sent back to prison despite health fears

Selahattin Demirtas greets Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) supporters during a rally in Istanbul, in 2016. (Reuters)
Updated 03 December 2019

Kurdish leader sent back to prison despite health fears

  • Turkish authorities accused of ‘negligence’ after Selahattin Demirtas collapses in jail cell
  • Demirtas, the former co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and nicknamed the ‘Kurdish Obama,’ has been in prison for more than three years on terror-related charges

ANKARA: Jailed pro-Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas was taken to hospital on Monday for health checks after collapsing five days ago in his prison cell.
The move followed criticism of Turkish authorities for failing to authorize emergency treatment earlier.
However, contrary to hopes that Demirtas would undergo extensive examinations, he was returned to prison within a few hours.
Demirtas’ sister Aygul and his supporters had criticized Turkish authorities for refusing to carry out full checks and detailed examinations, claiming that Demirtas received emergency treatment in prison in Edirne in northwestern Turkey.
“He has not been sent to hospital because of security reasons,” his sister said.
Lawyers and family members were not told about Demirtaş’ collapse for two days, with his sister learning about his health issues only on Monday, three days after the incident, when she came to visit her brother.
Authorities were informed on Friday about the need to take Demirtas to hospital for tests, but the process stalled over the weekend. Family and lawyers had to bring the politician’s case to the attention of the media before official approval was given.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Demirtas’ lawyer, Mahsuni Karaman, said the politician, who has had coronary issues previously, had serious chest pains and breathing problems, and lost his memory for a short while.
His lawyers are set to apply to the Constitutional Court to speed up legal proceedings for examining his dossier at the court.
“We haven’t received the results of his health examinations yet. If there is an acute situation that means he has to be transferred to a full-fledged hospital, we will apply to the relevant authorities to accelerate that process,” Karaman said.
Demirtas, the former co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and nicknamed the “Kurdish Obama,” has been in prison for more than three years on terror-related charges.
If convicted, he faces a prison term of up to 142 years.
His lawyers recently made their sixth application to the Constitutional Court claiming that he is being kept in prison despite two release orders.
Last year the European Court of Human Rights called for Demirtas’ release from pre-trial detention, claiming that the case “had political incentives” aimed at “limiting freedom of political debate” in Turkey.
Emma Sinclair-Webb, of Human Rights Watch, said Turkey has a poor record of providing medical care for sick prisoners and those with chronic or life-threatening health conditions.
“Demirtas is one of thousands of prisoners denied the right to proper health care,” she told Arab News. “Combined with the Turkish government’s politically motivated and arbitrary detention, any further denial of necessary medical treatment will fuel concerns of deliberate negligence on the part of the authorities.” 
About a dozen lawmakers from HDP, Turkey’s third-largest parliamentary party, are being held in prison pending trial over terror-related charges after their parliamentary immunities were lifted more than three years ago.
The Turkish government accuses the HDP of having links to the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, the EU and the US.
Demirtas, a former lawyer and a charismatic leader, won almost 10 percent of the vote in 2014 presidential elections, where he challenged Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
His next hearing will be held in Ankara from Jan. 7-9.


Worldwide virus cases top 20 million, doubling in six weeks

Updated 11 August 2020

Worldwide virus cases top 20 million, doubling in six weeks

  • The worldwide count of known COVID-19 infections climbed past 20 million on Monday

It took six months for the world to reach 10 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus. It took just over six weeks for that number to double.
The worldwide count of known COVID-19 infections climbed past 20 million on Monday, with more than half of them from just three countries: the US, India and Brazil, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The average number of new cases per day in the US has declined in recent weeks but is still running high at over 54,000, versus almost 59,000 in India and nearly 44,000 in Brazil.