ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ordered the government of Turkey to release Kurdish political leader Selahattin Demirtas from a now two-year-long pre-trial detention.
The Strasbourg-based court unanimously held that the Turkish state had to "take all necessary measures to put an end" to Demirtas' continued detention, which it deemed unlawful.
The verdict by the ECtHR on the Demirtas vs. Turkey case came 21 months after the former Co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) applied to the court, accusing Turkey of grave rights violations.
His lawyers argued that Demirtas's initial pre-trial detention and its continuation were executed arbitrarily by the Turkish authorities and that the duration of his detention has been excessive.
They said that relevant Turkish judicial decisions contained no reasons other than mere citation of the grounds for detention provided for by law and they were "worded in abstract, repetitive, and formulaic terms," essentially accusing the government of abusing the law.
Demirtas also complained that his lack of access to the investigation file prevented him from effectively challenging the order during his detention at a supermax prison in Turkey's Edirne Province on the border with Greece.
The left-wing HDP welcomed the ruling and urged Turkey to release all other political prisoners, among them a dozen former lawmakers, over 60 mayors unseated from their elected posts by the government of President Tayyip Erdogan, and seven thousand other members of pro-Kurdish parties.
"The decision by the ECtHR is an important one that can become a catalyst in resolving the [political] crisis in Turkey. [Turkish] Courts must take it into consideration and release all hostage politicians in no time. Freedom for Demirtas and other political prisoners," an HDP statement in the Kurdish language read.
Turkish police arrested Demirtas along with ten other MPs in simultaneous night raids across several provinces on November 4, 2016, with charges of terrorism and separatism based on various public speeches they had delivered.
Prosecutors have asked up to 142 years for him in different probes, including one involving accusations he insulted Erdogan, but no conviction has been delivered.
Erdogan has openly called him a "terrorist," and declared, if authorized by the Parliament, that he would sign the death sentence for his then-rival in the run-up to the June 2018 presidential and general elections.
Editing by Nadia Riva