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Turkish Presidential Candidate Airs Speech From Prison Cell

Turkish presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas (2015 file photo)

A jailed Turkish-Kurdish politician has broadcast a campaign pitch from his prison cell a week ahead of the country’s June 24 election.

Turkish state broadcaster TRT on June 17 aired a 10-minute campaign speech by presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas, allowing him to denounce the government's "repressive regime."

By law, each presidential candidate is entitled to 20 minutes of free airtime on public TV.

Demirtas is a former co-leader of the People's Democratic Party (HDP) and has been held since November 2016, accused of having links to outlawed Kurdish militants.

The HDP denies involvement in any illegal activities and says the crackdown is meant to suppress opposition.

Demirtas asked voters in the upcoming election to stop the "one-man regime" of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling Turkey's current situation just a "teaser" and warning that "the actual scary part of the movie has not yet begun."

He recorded the speech from his prison cell in the northwest province of Edirne after the authorities denied his request to travel to the TRT headquarters in the capital, Ankara.

"The only reason why I am here is that the AKP is scared of me," Demirtas, 45, said, referring to Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party.

In April, Erdogan declared that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held on June 24, more than a year earlier than planned, a move that would help him solidify his power.

Turkey is shifting from a parliamentary system to a presidential one in which the president will have more power. The changes will take effect after the elections.

Based on reporting by AFP, dpa, and AP