European Court Slams Erdogan Administration For Imprisonment of Kurdish Politician
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) called on Turkey to release Selahattin Demirtas, the former co-chairman of pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP), who has been imprisoned for two years and sharply criticized his ongoing imprisonment.
In an unusually blunt statement, the ECtHR portrayed Demirtas’s continuing imprisonment as politically motivated. While the court said Demirtas had been arrested on “reasonable suspicion,” the extensions of his detention lacks plausible justification.
In November 2016, Demirtas, along with other HDP Co-Chair Figen Yuksekdag, have been arrested on the charges of having links to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
He faces dozens of years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors particularly charge him with instigating the violent anti-government protests in October 2014 when HDP supporters took into streets to protest the Erdogan government’s indifference to Islamic State (ISIS) onslaught on the Syrian border town of Kobani.
More than 40 people had been killed during Kobani protests across Turkey. Demirtas vehemently denies any role for the outbreak of violence. His imprisonment came when the Turkish government unleashed a massive crackdown on opponents in different quarters of the political spectrum, arresting tens of thousands of people, including HDP lawmakers and supporters.
Unlike its verdict and judgment on previous applications from Turkey regarding detention of journalists, the ECtHR invoked the 18th article of European Human Rights Convention in its recent decision, setting the stage for a potential diplomatic showdown.
The 18th article appears as binding for the countries against which the verdict was delivered. But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outright dismissed ECtHR call for the release of Demirtas.
“[The extensions of detention] had pursued the predominant ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate, which was at the very core of the concept of a democratic society,” the top human rights court said in its statement.
“The Court therefore held, unanimously, that the respondent state was to take all necessary measures to put an end to the applicant’s pre-trial detention,” the court added, pressing Turkey to act swiftly.
In its articulation of the reasoning, the ECtHR referred to the “tense political climate” in Turkey, an element that “created an environment capable of influencing certain decisions by the national courts.”
If Turkey refuses to comply with the recent verdict, it would have grave ramifications for Turkey’s relations with the Council of Europe. Ankara may face sanctions in the case of non-compliance and even lose its membership in the Council of Europe, as the 18th article requires for the failing respondent states.