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The European Parliament’s new Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor has said that he recently visited former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş in jail and became “very concerned” about his health problems.

“This chain of procedures that are applied to him could be considered as a way to maintain him in the prison,” Amor said during an interview with Euronews’ Turkish service on Dec. 24.

Demirtaş was taken to hospital on Dec. 2, nearly a week after losing consciousness due to chest tightness and inability to breathe. The move followed criticism of Turkish authorities for failing to authorize emergency treatment earlier.

Demirtaş’s lawyers and visitors later announced he was in good shape, but they also said his “condition” had worsened in prison as he suffered 20 such attacks in the past three years. What the former HDP leader suffers from remains unclear. 

Amor criticizes replacement of HDP mayors with trustees

Amor has also touched upon the recent crackdown on mayors from the HDP, saying that not only is the removal of mayors problematic, but also their replacement with government-appointed trustees is “very hard to understand.”

“What is absolutely impossible for me to understand is the appointment of trustees… You can’t replace an elected mayor with someone from another party, with someone who was not elected,” he said, adding that the person who fills in the mayor’s position should be again from the same party.

Ankara has appointed acting mayors to 31 HDP municipalities in southeastern cities and districts since March elections, according to the HDP, and 23 of the HDP’s co-mayors are currently jailed pending trial.

The government accuses the HDP of having links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), leading to prosecutions of thousands of its members and some leaders. The HDP denies such links.

‘Does anyone in Turkey think the Gezi protest was an initiative to overthrow the government?’

Amor has also touched upon the case of renowned philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala, who has been in jail for over two years. Kavala is accused of being one of the “managers and organizers” of 2013 Gezi Park protests, which took place in Istanbul’s Taksim following harsh government response to a group of protesters trying to prevent the cutting down of trees for a large development project planned by the government.

“Is there really anyone in Turkey who thinks the Gezi protest was an initiative to overthrow the government? Does really anyone in Turkey think of that? I know what happened in Gezi; it was a protest – a protest on a single issue which then expanded to general issues. Comparing Gezi [protest] with a coup? This is why the decorative changes that the Turkish authorities are undertaking regarding the laws are not here working in Europe,” Amor said.

The indictment prepared by the prosecutors attempts to link the Gezi Park protests to the 2016 coup attempt.

A Turkish court on Dec. 24 ruled for the continuation of arrest of Kavala, despite a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) call for his release. During the hearing, Kavala demanded an end to this “unlawful and discriminatory practice.”