Turkey must release the opposition politician and erdogan critic selahattin demirtas, who has been imprisoned in turkey for around two years, from pre-trial detention. This was the ruling of the european court of human rights (ECHR) in strasbourg.
The court found that there was reasonable suspicion for the arrest of the former leader of the pro-kurdish opposition party HDP, but that the duration of the detention was not justified.
Demirtas must be released as soon as possible on current charges – unless turkey provides new grounds and evidence for detention, prosecutors say. Turkey’s president recep tayyip erdogan immediately rejected the ruling, calling it non-binding. Demirtas criticized erdogan from prison for this reformation. He also said that the verdict confirmed that he himself was being held as a "political hostage".
HDP politicians reacted to the decision with spontaneous cheering and clapping at a parliamentary group meeting in ankara. Party chairwoman pervin buldan and demirtas lawyer mahsuni karaman called for the immediate implementation of the ruling. Karaman wrote on twitter that the application for his client’s release had been filed with the competent court in ankara. German politicians also buried the strabburger decision, shortly before the trip of an EU delegation to ankara comes.
Turkey, as a member of the council of europe, must in principle abide by the ruling. But it is not yet legally binding. Both sides may request referral to the ECHR’s rough chamber within three months.
The charismatic demirtas is a fierce critic of erdogan and has repeatedly warned of one-man rule in turkey. He was arrested in november 2016 on terror charges and is being held in edirne, western turkey. Until february he was HDP chairman. In the presidential and parliamentary elections in june, he ran against erdogan as a presidential candidate from prison. Despite the difficult election campaign, he came in third with 8.4 percent of the vote.
Demirtas feels politically persecuted. In his response to the prison ruling, he went on to write that it was regrettable that erdogan would not recognize the ECHR’s decision. It shows that erdogan does not respect justice, the law and the constitution. This is a "very serious situation" for the whole country.
Erdogan calls demirtas a "terrorist". He sees the HDP – which is a legal party – as the extended arm of the PKK organization, which is classified as terrorist.
The judges in strasbourg saw demirtas’ work as a deputy as obstructed. They ruled that the fact that the politician could not perform his work in parliament was an unlawful interference with the freedom of expression and the right to sit in parliament as an elected representative.
His detention was aimed at stifling pluralism and limiting the freedom of political debate, the judges ruled. This was especially true during the presidential elections in june and for the controversial constitutional referendum in april 2017.
The judges also ruled that the government in ankara must pay demirtas 10,000 euros in compensation and reimburse him 15,000 euros in costs.
The european policy spokesman of the left-wing andrej hunko demanded "the release of selahattin demirtas in the next few days". Former green party leader claudia roth told the german press agency that the ruling showed that the turkish judiciary had surrendered its independence to the AKP government. "This is another reason not to rely on normalization with turkey, but also to fundamentally rethink the german relationship with ankara," she demanded.
Turkey expert of the human rights organization amnesty international andrew gardner also pointed out that turkey, as a member of the council of europe, is bound by the ecthr ruling and demanded: "the authorities must implement the court’s decision and immediately release selahattin demirtas from his protracted and unlawful pre-trial detention.".
Amnesty international’s turkey expert andrew gardner also pointed out that turkey, as a member of the council of europe, is bound by the ecthr ruling and demanded: "the authorities must implement the court’s decision and immediately release selahattin demirtas from his protracted and unlawful pre-trial detention".
Demirtas and his party have repeatedly criticized erdogan for actually imprisoning him in order to get rid of a critic. Demirtas succeeded in winning over voters from outside the kurdish ethnic group to the HDP. In 2015, the HDP entered parliament for the first time, costing erdogan’s AKP an absolute majority.
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