Turkish government should release Demirtas and Yuksekdag: NGOs

“The Turkish government should abide by international law and implement the binding judgments of the ECtHR by immediately releasing politicians Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ.”
Former HDP co-chairs Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas (Photo: AFP)
Former HDP co-chairs Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas (Photo: AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Four non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report on Friday said that the Turkish government should release the former co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish party Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas.

“The Turkish government should abide by international law and implement the binding judgments of the ECtHR by immediately releasing politicians Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ,” the four nongovernmental organizations—Human Rights Watch, the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project, the International Commission of Jurists, and the International Federation for Human Rights, said on the seventh anniversary of the politicians’ imprisonment.

Read More: European Court rules Rights of former pro-Kurdish Party Co-Chairs violated

“The seventh anniversary of the unlawful incarceration of Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ is a stark reminder of the Erdoğan presidency’s willingness to use detention for political ends to silence democratically elected opposition politicians representing millions of Kurdish and leftist voters in Turkey,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“In defying the binding ECtHR judgments ordering the politicians’ release, Turkey is flagrantly violating its legal obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and international law more broadly.”

In a case related to the Kobani protests in 2014, co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, along with 34 others, were jailed in 2016 for “disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state”.

The HDP called for street protests in Oct. 2014 in response to the attack on Kobani by ISIS.

“Despite the European Court ruling that the grounds to justify Yüksekdağ and Demirtaş’s detention were insufficient, the Ankara public prosecutor in April 2023 requested their conviction on numerous alleged offences concerning their political speech, which may result in their life imprisonment without parole,” said Temur Shakirov, interim director of the International Commission of Jurists’ Europe and Central Asia Programme.

“This underscores the ultimate political motives behind the ongoing case targeting the two and reinforces doubts about the fair administration of justice in the country.”