Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declined to support the remarks of one of his aides who called for the release of political prisoners Selahattin Demirtaş and Osman Kavala from prison, saying that there is no change in the attitude of his party on this issue.
Bülent Arınç, a member of Turkey’s Presidential High Advisory Board, said during a program on Haber Türk TV last week that Kurdish politician Demirtaş and businessman and human rights activist Kavala were behind bars based on poorly drafted and legally weak indictments and should be released.
“Even if we worked together in the past, nobody’s personal statement can be associated with our government and party. Our attitude is clear, and there is no change in our direction,” Erdoğan said in a virtual speech to his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) members on Saturday.
He said his government’s recently announced plans to make fresh economic and judicial reforms have prompted some to set “new fires of evil.”
Demirtaş has been jailed since November 2016, while Kavala has been behind bars since November 2017 on what many say are politically motivated charges. Both Demirtaş and Kavala are still in prison despite rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which found their arrest unlawful and called for their immediate release.
Erdoğan said his party can never walk in hand-in-hand with anybody involved in terrorism.
“We can never be together with the Kavalas. We can never forget Kobani. We can never defend those who killed our Kurdish brothers and sisters. Anyone who defends them in court should know the AKP will never stand up to defend them,” said Erdoğan.
Erdoğan and his party accuse Demirtaş of responsibility for the deaths of 53 people during street protests in 2014 against an attack on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. The protesters accused the Turkish army of standing by as the Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant militant group besieged Kobani in plain view just across the Syrian border. Demirtaş is accused by Erdoğan of inciting the protests.