Demand Turkey release detained Kurdish leader

Selahattin Demirta┼č

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held Dec. 22 that Turkey must take all necessary measures to secure the immediate release of Selahattin Demirta┼č, a Kurdish politician held by the government on terrorism charges. The Grand Chamber found that there had been multiple violations of the European Convention of Human Rights in his case. It also found no evidence supporting Demirta┼č’┬ádetention that linked his actions and the alleged offenses. The Court concluded that “the purposes put forward by the authorities for the applicant’s pre-trial detention were merely cover for an ulterior political purpose, which is a matter of indisputable gravity for democracy.”

Between 2014-18, Demirta┼č was a co-chair of the Peoples’┬áDemocratic Party (HDP), a left-wing pro-Kurdish political party. In 2016, a Turkish court ordered the pre-trial detention of Demirta┼č for membership in an armed terrorist organization and public incitement to commit an offense. This was made possible by a temporary constitutional change, approved by parliament in May 2016, which lifted the parliamentary immunity of 154 members under investigation at that time for criminal offenses.

Demirta┼č was charged with being a leading member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’┬áParty (PKK), deemed a terrorist organization by the US, EU, and Turkey. However, the HDP and Demirta┼č have consistently denied any formal connection with the group. If convicted of being a leading member of the PKK, Demirtas faces up to 142 years in prison for his actions during protests in 2014 that turned violent and led to the deaths of 37 people.

In 2018, the ECHR ordered the release of Demirta┼č, holding that his imprisonment had the “ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate.”┬áHowever, TurkeyÔÇÖs President Erdogan said the ECHR rulings were not binding, and pre-trial detention of┬áDemirta┼č was approved.

From Jurist, Dec. 23. Used with permission.

See our last posts on the detention of┬áSelahattin Demirta┼č, the HDP, the PKK, and the crackdown on political opposition in Turkey.

Photo:┬áDemirta┼č’┬ápresidential campaign launched outside Edirne prison where he is incarcerated, May 2018, via Wikipedia