EU foreign chief 'hopes' Turkey will release Kurdish leader

Turkey's Erdogan has flatly refused to abide by a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights to release Demirtas from jail.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini on Thursday stood by a ruling made earlier this week that ordered Turkey to release jailed Kurdish political leader Selahattin Demirtas.

At a joint press conference in Ankara alongside Johannes Hahn, the EU's Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Mogherini reiterated that Turkey remained a candidate state.

"A stronger Turkey also means a democratic Turkey based on the rule of law, an independent and professional judiciary and full respect of the fundamental freedoms," she said. "We hope Mr. Demirtas will be released shortly and that similar cases will be dealt with soon."

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who harbors deep anti-Western sentiments and does not shy away from expressing them, has flatly refused to abide by the decision from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) regarding Demirtas's continued detention, alleging that it did not "bind" his country and accusing the court of "siding with terrorists."

By virtue of its membership as a founder in the Council of Europe (CoE) and being a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Turkey is legally and constitutionally bound by rulings of the ECtHR.

Erdogan repeatedly called his once presidential rival Demirtas a "terrorist," despite the lack of a conviction by any Turkish court during his lengthy pre-trial detention and has vowed to keep the Kurdish leader in prison since his arrest, two years ago.

Mogherini and Hahn visited Ankara to lay Turkey's decades-long membership negotiations, the recently renewed American sanctions on the Iranian regime, a refugee crisis that has divided Europe, and the war in Syria all on the discussion table.

"Turkey... is a candidate country and is also the key strategic partner for the EU," continued Mogherini. "The EU-Turkey relations are extremely important not only for the EU and for Turkey, but also very important for our region."

Editing by John J. Catherine