Human rights groups call for release of Kurdish political leader in Turkey
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Two international human rights organizations have said that the Turkish government should immediately release Selahattin Demirtas, former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been jailed for over four years, in accordance with a 2018 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.
The call to action was published jointly by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and ARTICLE 19 on Thursday.
Human Rights Watch & ARTICLE 19: Turkey should free Selahattin Demirtaş & comply with ECtHR 2018 ruling. Hand-in-glove coordination between president, prosecutors & courts to keep him detained for 4 yrs violates his rights, abuses democratic safeguards https://t.co/i2ku8mFUCG— Emma Sinclair-Webb (@esinclairwebb) November 19, 2020
Turkish police arrested Demirtas along with 10 other MPs in simultaneous night raids across several provinces on Nov. 4, 2016, with charges of terrorism and separatism based on various public speeches they had delivered.
“The detention of Demirtas and eight other democratically elected Peoples’ Democratic Party members of parliament four years ago this month was the start of the government’s ongoing assault on the party and part of a broader pattern of politically motivated prosecutions and incarcerations in the wake of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt,” said the two rights watchdog groups.
“The Turkish government should also review the detentions of the other former HDP deputies, including the co-chair of the party, Figen Yüksekdağ, on whose cases the European Court of Human Rights has yet to rule.”
Emma Sinclair-Webb, the senior Turkey researcher at HRW, told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday that “a look at the speeches of President Erdogan and the machinations of prosecutors and courts to keep Selahattin Demirtas locked up over the past four years serves to show that there has been a deliberate government-led campaign to punish him as the former co-chair of a political opposition party.”
The European Court of Human Rights in November 2018 ordered the government of Turkey to release Kurdish political leader Demirtas, calling his detention unlawful.
The 19th Assize Court of Ankara “ruled unanimously” on Sept. 2 2019 for the release of the former HDP co-chair. However, on September 20, the day that Demirtas could have been released, the Ankara chief prosecutor cited an old and dormant ongoing investigation as grounds to detain Demirtas and Yüksekdağ, the former HDP co-chairs.
“Since the European Court’s November 2018 judgment ordering his immediate release, Turkey has made every possible move to bypass that judgment and prevent him getting out of detention,” Sinclair-Webb added.
According to Sinclair-Webb, this confirms the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment that, in keeping Demirtas detained, the Turkish government has pursued the “predominant ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate: the very core of the concept of a democratic society.”
“The Turkish government argues that the first European Court judgment isn’t final and the result of the European Court’s Grand Chamber review is still pending. Human Rights Watch and Article 19 would argue on that point that Turkey is in fact perpetuating the violation of Demirtas’s rights by not releasing him pending the Grand Chamber decision,” she concluded.
“We also argue that there should be a full review of the detention of the other HDP MPs in jail. Demirtas should clearly be released.”
Editing by John J. Catherine