Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, co-Chairs of the People's Democratic Party (HDP), have been nominated by the GUE/NGL group for the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize this year.

Both were democratically elected as members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly in June 2015 and Demirtaş was also a presidential candidate in 2014 who attracted the third-highest number of votes.

Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ were arrested and imprisoned in November 2016, and currently face 142 and 83 years in prison respectively.

Their arrests followed the Erdoğan government's decision to remove the collective parliamentary immunity of 138 members of the Grand National Assembly in May 2016.

The GUE/NGL group has chosen the pair as symbols of resistance against violations of democratic rights in Turkey. Through this nomination, the group wishes to show its support for all the elected representatives that have been arbitrarily deprived of their functions, persecuted or imprisoned, as well as all other defenders of human rights and democracy in Turkey.

The European Parliament has already denounced the imprisonment of elected representatives from the HDP in Turkey in a resolution passed in July this year.

Granting the Sakharov Prize to Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ would reaffirm that the European Union continues to stand firmly by the sides of unjustly imprisoned human rights defenders from across Turkey.

The Sakharov Prize is awarded for the defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the right to freedom of expression; safeguarding the rights of minorities; respect for international law; and the development of democracy and the implementation of the rule of law.

The European Parliament's Conference of Presidents will decide on the winner/s on October 26 and the prize will be presented at a ceremony on December 13.

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