President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the requirements for standing as a candidate in presidential elections should be changed, in reference to jailed presidential nominee Selahattin Demirtaş, during a rally in Trabzon, the T24 news website reported on Wednesday.
“Why can [Demirtaş be a candidate]? [Because] the guy in Edirne was not convicted but is a detainee,” Erdoğan said.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) nominee Demirtaş has been under pretrial detention in Edirne prison since November 2016.
According to the law, inmates who have been convicted of a crime cannot be presidential or parliamentary candidates in elections, whereas those in pretrial detention who have not received a verdict from a local court are allowed to participate in the races.
Erdoğan also criticized his other rival, Muharrem İnce, for visiting Demirtaş in prison.
“These people [Demirtaş and his party] called my Kurdish brothers into the streets, and 53 of my Kurdish brothers lost their lives,” Erdoğan said.
President Erdoğan has recently begun to call Demirtaş a “terrorist,” referring to his alleged role in the Kobani protests.
“Neither me nor the HDP has ever been sued over the deaths that occurred during the Kobani protests,” Demirtaş tweeted on Monday, responding to Erdoğan’s previous claims about the deaths of 53 people.
He also denied that he had urged people to take to the streets.
Fifty-three people died during demonstrations protesting the invasion of the Syrian border city of Kobani by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2014.
“Kobani is about to fall,” then-Prime Minister Erdoğan said just before the protests.
“During the five months following the Kobani events, our meetings with Erdoğan and [his ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP over the settlement process [to resolve the Kurdish problem] continued. In other words, Erdoğan continued to meet for five months with us, who he now labels ‘terrorists’,” Demirtaş tweeted.