Erdogan's ally uses satire to continue his support for the release of Demirtas
A veteran ally of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who was forced to resign from a presidential advisory panel two years ago because of his support for the release of imprisoned Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas, now tried a tongue-in-cheek approach in a bid to soften reactions to his views as a make-or-break election looms between Turkey's ruling and opposition blocs.
When asked about the court rulings on Demirtas during an interview with Deutsche Welle Turkish, former Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc responded in a cynical tone. He changed the name from Demirtas (iron stone in Turkish) to Celiktas (steel stone), but expressed the same opinion:
"Well, I do not want to talk about the name you mentioned, because when I talked about it, I was accused by the president and (MHP leader) Bahceli (...) I do not want to be a target again. Let me tell you an opinion that has nothing to do with the person you mentioned. Let us assume it is a person named Alaattin Celiktas. Let us say he is one of the prisoners in Cemizgezek Prison. I think that he should definitely be released if there is no final verdict against him.
Arinc, a close ally of Erdogan and one of the founders of his AKP (Justice and Development Party), caused a stir in 2020 when he called for Demirtas' release and suggested everyone read a fictional book he had written in prison to understand the Kurdish issue in Turkey.
Erdogan dismissed those remarks, saying, "It offended me that he suggested everyone read the book of a terrorist."
"There is no Kurdish question in this country," Erdogan said. Demirtas, he said, defends "terrorism" and has the "blood of thousands of Kurds on his hands."
Despite earlier court orders for his release, Selahattin Demirtas has been in prison for more than six years for protesting the Turkish army's inaction during a militant attack on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. If convicted, he faces up to 142 years in prison.
The HDP, which Demirtas chaired between 2014 and 2018, has had thousands of its officials and members arrested in recent years. It is generally accused of links to Kurdish militants who are waging an insurgency in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast.