Former HDP co-chairs Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ mark five years in prison

Former HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ marked five years in prison on Nov. 4. In a message released to mark the day, Başak Demirtaş said that they have never lost hope.

Duvar English 

Former co-chairs of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, marked five years in prison on Nov. 4.

Demirtaş, Yüksekdağ and a number of other HDP deputies were arrested on Nov. 4, 2016 on charges related to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in what the party calls "a political coup."

Since then, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ramped up its crackdown on the HDP, going as far as to seek the party's closure. 

Başak Demirtaş, the former co-chair's wife, released a message to mark the day, stressing that they have never lost hope. 

"Despite everything, we have never lost hope during the past five years. Neither our will nor our faith was broken. We know that justice, freedom and equality are not too far away," Demirtaş said in a video on Twitter. 

"Yes, they might have succeeded in keeping Selahattin and his friends in their prison cells, but they could not suppress their voices or their strength," she also said. 

"We are hopeful and resilient, and we know that democracy will prevail." 

Demirtaş noted that she was not allowed to have contact visitations with her husband for twenty months within these five years. 

"There were times when we could not have non-contact visits with him for months," she said, noting that the pandemic measures that are lacking in the country were enforced arbitrarily in prisons. 

"There is nothing left of pandemic measures outside. Selahattin, our daughters and I were vaccinated twice, but yet we are still not allowed to have contact visits with him even if we wear masks," Demirtaş said. 

Selahattin Demirtaş, whose release was urged by numerous European institutions, including the European Court of Human Rights, recently drew attention to the arbitrary procedures in prisons, slamming the limitations imposed on family and lawyer visitations.

"The Justice Ministry is trying to make use of the crisis and turn the limitations into a permanent seizure of rights," Demirtaş said in a tweet on Nov. 1.

"I'm writing these to draw attention to the conditions of other inmates. Sounds of protests have been filling Edirne Prison in the past 20 days, don't you hear them?" he asked.

Since the start of the pandemic, human rights groups have been pointing to the rights violations in prisons. The limitations on lawyer and family visitations are among them, with the COVID-19 measures having turned into a tool to punish inmates.