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Turkey: Imprisoned Kurdish leader Demirtas retires from politics

Selahattin Demirtas said he would be leaving active politics 'at this stage' following last week's elections
Supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) hold a picture of jailed former party leader Selahattin Demirtas as they attend a 'Peace and Justice' rally in Istanbul on February 3, 2019 (AFP)
Supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party hold a picture of jailed former party leader Selahattin Demirtas, Istanbul, 3 February 2019 (AFP)

The imprisoned head of an opposition Kurdish party in Turkey announced on Wednesday he is leaving active politics following last week's elections.

Selahattin Demirtas, former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP), said in a tweet he would be retiring from politics "at this stage". 

"On my own behalf, I sincerely apologise for not being able to put forward a policy worthy of our people. I promise to remedy these deficiencies with my practical efforts," he wrote in a message that will form part of an upcoming interview with the Turkish newspaper Arti Gercek.

"Also, thank you for constructive criticism towards me. I will try to take advantage of the criticism. As I continue the struggle with resistance like all my comrades from prison, I leave active politics at this stage.

"I send my comradely greetings to all of you, my love, and I embrace you all with longing. Hope to see you in free days."

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Demirtas, a two-time presidential candidate, has been in jail since 2016.

His co-leader Figen Yuksekdag, as well as numerous other HDP politicians, are also currently in prison.

Rulings for release

Demirtas has been serving a constantly changing jail time in Edirne since November 2016, on various charges from terror propaganda to instigating violence and insulting the Turkish nation.

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The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly ruled for his release, but so far Turkey has ignored these rulings.

On Sunday, in his victory speech following his successful re-election, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that he would not be releasing Demirtas, something he claimed his presidential opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu would have done.

Hundreds of HDP politicians have been arrested and jailed since the collapse of peace talks between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in 2015.

The HDP has repeatedly been accused by the government of being linked to the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU, and the US.

As the party is currently being threatened with closure by the Constitutional Court, HDP politicians ran under the banner of the Green Left Party in last week's elections, winning 61 seats.

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