EP’s Turkey rapporteur raises concern about imprisoned pro-Kurdish leader’s health

European Parliament’s (EP) new rapporteur on Turkey, Nacho Sanchez Amor, says he is very concerned about jailed opposition leader Selahattin Demirtas’ health following a recent visit in prison.

“This chain of procedures to which he is subjected can be considered as means for keeping him in prison,” the rapporteur told Euronews Turkish on Tuesday.

Demirtas, the former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was sent to the hospital for a check-up on December 2, almost a week after fainting in his cell on November 26.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) blamed the delay in the transfer to hospital on alleged negligence by Turkey’s justice ministry.

Demirtas’s ailing health has been a source of concern for quite some time as he has suffered from 20 such attacks in the past three years.

The latest attack came reportedly after tightness in his chest and difficulty in breathing, symptoms similar to a heart attack. His condition has yet to be identified.

Demirtas, 46, was jailed in 2016 on a number of offenses that include terror-related charges and faces 142 years in prison if found guilty in the main case against him.

The Turkish state accuses the HDP of having links to the outlawed Kurdish separatists, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long armed struggle against it.

In July 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the former pro-Kurdish leader’s conviction for a speech he gave in 2005 was a violation of the politician’s right to free speech.

However, Turkish courts have not implemented the ECtHR decision, and a court ruled for the continuation of his arrest a few days after its ruling.

The EP’s Amor also criticized the crackdown by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on the pro-Kurdish party members, referring to the removals of the HDP mayors.

A total of 31 HDP mayors have been ousted from their offices since they won their posts in the March 31 local election, with 23 of them also being arrested on terror-related charges.

“There are two serious problems in the sackings of the mayors. The first one is, of course, the dismissal of the elected mayors. The second and the main problem is the replacement of them with [state]-appointed trustees.”

“This is an act that is impossible to be understood in Europe. You [a government] may oust a mayor due to a judicial proceeding. However, while doing this, you cannot appoint an individual who is from another political party and is not an elected one. The one replacing [the elected mayor] must be from the same party,” Amor said.

Newly appointed as Turkey rapporteur in October, Amor is a Spanish member of the EP from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, likewise his predecessor, Kati Piri, who was known as an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Like Amor, Piri had previously visited Demirtas in prison in April just before the EP elections and vowed to fight for his release until he is back at home with his family if she is re-elected as an EP member again in the new term.

When asked about Piri, who was criticized by the AKP for standing too close to the pro-Kurdish party in her tenure and for losing her objectivity on the Kurdish issue, Amor said she had experienced difficulties with the Turkish authorities because she acted in the right way.

For Amor, Piri is a respected member of the EP as she drew attention to the goings-on, notably the violations of human rights in Turkey.

“When you look at the situation in Turkey, it is not going well in recent years. Piri was not an actor in the matters. She just reflected the situation as is. So I have to say that I totally acknowledge what she did. I also follow in her footsteps by trying to be objective,” Amor vowed.

Answering a question about the strongly-worded reports and harsh-toned calls by the European Union (EU) targeting Turkey, the rapporteur said the EU’s stance towards Turkey has nothing to do with being against it but is dependent on the situation in the country.

“The situation [in Turkey] has not changed since the [2016] coup attempt. Is Turkey getting well or not? This is the question. Many, including mayors, media workers, and members of the Gulen movement, have been continuously trialed. Apparently, that [crackdown] will never end,” Amor argued.

The EP’s Amor added that whenever he talks to  Turkish officials, they were pointing to the country’s unique situations, such as the coup bid.

“Okay. But when will the country be normalized? Because it is always possible [for Turkey] to find a basis of excuse for attacking human rights,” Amor added.

Members of the faith-based Gulen movement are claimed by the ruling AKP government to have orchestrated the coup attempt in 2016.

Demirtas blames Justice Ministry for delay in his hospitalization: CHP MP

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