European court calls for ‘immediate release’ of Kurdish official jailed by Turkey for 4 years


ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday called again on Turkey to immediately release Selahattin Demirtas, the former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Turkish judicial authorities ignored a similar ECHR ruling two years ago.

The new decision states that Ankara should “take all necessary measures to secure the applicant’s immediate release.” Moreover, the court said that Turkey had to pay EUR 3,500 compensation in pecuniary damages and EUR 25,000 in other damages.

The court rejected the controversial terror-related charges Demirtas had been convicted of by a Turkish court.

“Having considered all the reasons put forward by the domestic courts, the Court found that none of the decisions on the applicant’s initial and continued pre-trial detention contained evidence that could indicate a clear link between his actions – his political speeches and participation in certain lawful meetings – and the terrorism-related offences for which he had been detained,” the court ruled.

The HDP Foreign Affairs department welcomed the decision, suggesting that it was a “smashing victory on behalf of the oppressed politicians in Turkey.”

“The verdict is not only valid for Mr. Demirtas,” it continued. “All the politicians who [were] imprisoned due to their speeches must be released immediately.”

Turkish police arrested Demirtas along with 10 other lawmakers in simultaneous night raids across several provinces on Nov. 4, 2016, with serious charges of terrorism and “separatism” being made, based on various public speeches they had delivered in the past.

The earlier ruling by the ECHR in November 2018 ordered the government of Turkey to release 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 very day which Demirtas was expected to have been released, Ankara’s chief prosecutor cited an old and dormant ongoing investigation as grounds to detain both him and Figen Yuksekdag, another former HDP co-chair.

Last month, two international human rights organizations, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and ARTICLE 19, called on the Turkish government to immediately release Demirtas in accordance with the ECHR’s 2018 judgment.

However, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month told reporters that Turkey would not comply.

“I believe that our judiciary will not prepare such an opportunity for a terrorist like Selahattin Demirtas,” he was quoted as saying by the Turkish state-owned Anadolu Agency. 

He also ignored criticism from senior Turkish officials close to the Turkish presidency to keep Demirtas in jail, the Arab News reported.

Reportedly, Bulent Arinc, Presidential High Advisory Board and former senior official, resigned following a dispute with President Erdogan over his remarks where he criticized the imprisonment of Demirtas and dissident civil society figure Osman Kavala.

On Monday, the HDP’s Central Executive Board condemned a separate decision of another Turkish court to sentence former lawmaker Leyla Güven to over 22 years on similar alleged “terrorism” charges.

Read More: Pro-Kurdish party condemns Turkey's 22-year jail sentence for female politician

“With this verdict, judicial organs have once again shown that they act in line with the interests of the government,” read an HDP statement. “This hostile decision is not only against Leyla Güven and the DTK, but also against all Kurds and the opposition.”

Editing by John J. Catherine