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Kurdish leader Demirtas answers questions from Turkish prison

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Former pro-Kurdish party leader Selahattin Demirtas answered questions from Reuters from the prison where he has been held since 2016.

He said the Turkish opposition should form an alliance against President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party (AKP) and his nationalist allies rather than wait until elections scheduled for 2023.

Following are key quotes:

“The AKP and Erdogan have cast to one side virtually all their founding principles. Hence, it is not at all surprising that they should have given up on their principles regarding party closures too... There is nothing they wouldn’t do to stay in power. And yes, all this shows that their political options have lessened.”

Asked whether he thought pressure from the AKP’s allies, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), played a role in the decision to bring the party closure case:

“However much pressure there is from the MHP, it is always Erdogan who makes the final decision, don’t forget that. Hence, all the responsibility lies with Erdogan and the AKP.”

On the possibility of early elections:

“Before an economic crisis leads to a complete collapse they may want to go for an early election. Because if the economic crisis deepens greatly, there could be social explosions. The AKP may go for an early election to avoid this. In any case, it is necessary to be ready.

On his chances of release or acquittal:

“However deep the injustice is, nobody can keep us in prison for many long years. Of course, eventually we will be acquitted. But there is a need for a bit more time for this. Achieving the supremacy of law and the independence of the judiciary is only possible with a change in the political atmosphere, and this with a change in the government. The people will achieve this. For this reason, I request my release not from the courts but from the people. We trust our people.”

On how being in jail for years has affected him:

“I feel very well, strong and in good morale. My conscience is very clear. Thankfully, I am not in jail for stealing the people’s money.”

“Aside from that, I do not feel the need to talk about prison conditions at length. I can say generally that the conditions are not good and that everything has become really difficult because of the pandemic.”

Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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