Jailed Kurdish leader denied hospital treatment in Turkey

The former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas, has been denied urgent hospital treatment, according to his sister.

Demirtas fell unconscious in jail last week due to chest pains and respiratory issues, according to Aygul Demirtas, who also acts as his lawyer.

“On Tuesday, November 26 at 05:30, my client and older brother, Selahattin Demirtas, fainted due to chest tightness and inability to breathe. Being unconscious for a long time in his cell, first aid was provided by his cellmate Mr Abdullah Zeydan,” she tweeted on Monday afternoon.

She added that while an ECG was carried out on her brother, appeals to move Demitras to a hospital for urgent treatment were denied.

Local judiciary officials refuted the claims that first aid was carried out by his cellmate.

Edirne public prosecutor confirmed that Demirtas suffered from health issues but said that “after Selahattin Demirtas fell sick, 112 [emergency services] was called and the dispatched doctor provided first aid and necessary examinations were taken,” reported pro-government outlet IHA.

Demirtas, 46, used to be the co-chair of the HDP along with Figen Yuksekdag from 2014 to 2018 but both of them were detained in November 2016 for alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a Kurdish armed group fighting for Kurdish cultural and political rights in Turkey.

The Turkish government intensified its crackdown on the HDP and its affiliates after the failed coup attempt in July 2016, blamed on Fethullah Gulen – the former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

This is the first time Demirtas has suffered from serious health issues in jail.

He has been ordered released then re-arrested by different courts multiple times but remains in prison, and could face up to 142 years in prison if found guilty on current terror-related charges.

The HDP called on the Turkish Ministry of Justice to “make an immediate statement” regarding the situation.

“What is the current health condition of Mr. Demirtaş? Why was he not immediately taken to the hospital?” asked Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli, incumbent co-chairs of the HDP in a statement.

The officials blasted the denial of Turkish prison authorities to facilitate hospital care for the former leader.

“The required procedures for Demirtaş’s transfer to a fully equipped hospital should be carried out without delay. It is absolutely unacceptable that Mr. Demirtaş has not been referred to a hospital so far, and the authorities are fully responsible for this situation,” they added.

Buldan later said in a tweet that she is closely monitoring the leader’s condition, adding that two of their lawmakers, Erol Katircioglu and Necdet Ipekyuz visited her brother today.

“He is in good health. We are continuing our efforts to move him to a hospital,” she added.

Mahsuni Karaman, one of Demirtas’ lawyers, said that the prison doctor has warned that additional examinations are required for Demirtas to avoid further complications.

Turkey’s Ministry of Justice has yet to release a statement on the incident.

Dozens of HDP mayors – who won in March local elections – have been sacked by the interior ministry and arrested for alleged manipulation of the public budget and links to the PKK, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by Ankara. Additionally, hundreds of other HDP officials have been detained for similar charges.

The clampdown has been locally and internationally condemned.