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Demirtaş criticizes Erdoğan supporters’ call for his execution

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Jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş has criticized supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for shouting slogans demanding his execution during the president’s victory speech on the night of the May 28 presidential runoff, local media reported on Tuesday.

Erdoğan, the winner of a runoff that will extend his 20-year rule until 2028, gave a speech to a massive crowd outside the presidential palace in Ankara on Sunday evening.

He referred to Demirtaş, former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a human rights lawyer, as a “terrorist” and once again accused him of responsibility for the deaths of 51 people during street protests in the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır in 2014.

Following Erdoğan’s remarks about the Kurdish leader, his supporters chanted “Execution for Selo,” referring to Demirtaş.

Reacting to the incident in a tweet posted through his lawyers, Demirtaş described Erdoğan as “the elderly king, who is drunk with a fraudulent and fake victory and continues his spree of slander, threats and insults from the balcony of his luxurious palace” and his supporters as a “lynching crowd intoxicated by lies and pleasure.”

“Let me just say this: I am the descendant of the great Kurdish Commander Selahaddin Eyyubi, the conqueror of Jerusalem whose name I bear. When the time comes, I promise to treat all of you fairly,” Demirtaş added.

Demirtaş has been behind bars since November 2016 on politically motivated charges. He was an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, Erdoğan, before he was jailed. He ran in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan. The imprisoned leader conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.

Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as a part of reforms to facilitate Turkey’s accession to the European Union, although the death penalty has not been used since 1984.

Restoring capital punishment is a topic Erdoğan frequently talks about ahead of elections. The issue started to come up during the president’s speeches months before the May 14 parliamentary and presidential elections.

Erdoğan stated in response to the crowd calling for Demirtaş’s execution at a rally prior to the June 24, 2018 elections that he would have approved the reinstatement of capital punishment had parliament passed such legislation.

Erdoğan and his ruling AKP, in addition to their ultranationalist election partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), accuse the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

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