Erdoğan slams Kavala, Demirtaş, closing door on hopes for their release

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday called two of the country’s highest profile inmates, Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş, terrorists, closing the door on hopes for the pair’s release as a part of a judicial reform plan announced earlier this month.

Erdoğan slammed former deputy prime minister Bülent Arınç for questioning the imprisonment of businessman Kavala and Kurdish politician Demirtaş, saying the latter had  “blood on his hands,” Voice of America Turkish reported. 

“What is there to say about certain people, with whom we have worked together in this struggle for years, hopping on the same train (as the main opposition CHP). (They are) asking why so-and-so is still in prison,” Erdoğan said, referring to Arınç. “We are not about to reward these people.”

Two weeks ago, Erdoğan promised comprehensive judicial and economic reforms, sparking expectations of the possible release of politicians and human rights advocates from jail.

Former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Demirtaş, has been in prison for more than four years while Kavala, a philanthropist accused of helping organise the coup attempt of July 2016, has been jailed for more than three.

Moreover, the Turkish president said he was offended by Arınç’s suggestion that “everyone read the book written by the terrorist,” referring to former deputy PM’s call for people to read a book penned by Demirtaş to understand the country’s Kurdish issue.

Erdoğan went on to say, “There is no Kurdish issue in this country,”saying the greatest enemy of Turkey’s Kurdish population was the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for Kurdish autonomy for almost four decades. 

Arınç on Tuesday resigned from the High Advisory Council of the Presidency, citing  the challenge that could be posed to the announced judicial reform process by his recent remarks.