ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish judicial authorities on Tuesday upheld a prison sentence of four years and eight months for Kurdish political leader Selahattin Demirtas over “terrorist propaganda” in the wake of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling to release him immediately.
The decision, given days after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his administration would “take our counter-measure,” makes the ECHR ruling in favor of Demirtas essentially void, turning his pre-trial detention of now-nearly 25 months into imprisonment.
Days ago, Demirtas himself warned via his lawyers that a process against him was being expedited after the European court ordered his freedom when Erdogan vowed to keep him imprisoned.
A regional court in Istanbul rejected an appeal by Demirtas’ legal team which had argued that the case concluded in September violated their client’s his political rights because he was being convicted of a speech he delivered during Newroz (Kurdish New Year) celebrations in 2013.
The speech in question was one Demirtas gave two days before the Turkish government and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) announced a ceasefire and plan of peace negotiations for a political settlement to the decades-long Turkish-Kurdish conflict, a process that eventually collapsed.
A heavy penal court in Istanbul argued that Demirtas, the former Co-chair of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a two-time presidential candidate, disseminated propaganda for the outlawed PKK.
During that speech, Demirtas praised both then Prime Minister and now President Erdogan and PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan for their efforts to facilitate a political solution for Ankara and the Kurds.
HDP Co-chairs Sezai Temelli and Pervin Buldan condemned the Turkish court’s decision in a statement, saying it was unlawful and purely political.
“With this, Demirtas is now no longer a detainee but a prisoner, the executive branch has engaged in shameful conduct and tricks by giving orders to the judiciary in a full measure,” they said.
“This is the counter-measure Erdogan talked about. Hours after the ECHR ruling to free Demirtas it was him who said ‘the decision does not bind us, we will take our counter-measure and get the job done,’” the HDP added.
“The disgrace taking place in front of the whole world is the clear proof that the President is employing the judiciary as a tool. He [Erdogan] does not need to give orders to the judiciary secretly anymore; he does so in front of the cameras.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany