ECHR calls on Turkey to release Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş

(Updated with Demirtaş, government reactions to ECHR ruling)

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday called on Turkey to immediately release Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş.

The years-long detention of the former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was a cover for limiting pluralism and political debate in the country, the court said.

Demirtaş was arrested on Nov. 4, 2016 on terror charges. The high-profile Kurdish politician remains behind bars despite several court orders for his release, both by Turkish courts and the ECHR.

The ECHR on Wednesday said it did not see evidence in decisions for the Kurdish politician’s continued detention that linked his actions with the alleged terrorism-related offences.

Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was “a matter of indisputable gravity for democracy,” which sent a dangerous message to Turks, the court said.

The ECHR said Demirtaş’s detention had exceeded a reasonable period and his right to freedom had been violated, ordering Turkey to pay a compensation of 50,000 lira ($7,300).

The court referred to Article 314 of the Turkish Criminal Code on “forming or leading an armed terrorist organisation and membership of such an organisation,” used as justification for Demirtaş’s ongoing detention.

The article is “so broad” that its content “coupled with its interpretation by the domestic courts, does not afford adequate protection against arbitrary interference by national authorities,”the ECHR said.


The Turkish government accuses the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for over 40 years. HDP denies the claim.

Later on Tuesday, the Turkish government said it would evaluate the ECHR’s decision Demirtaş.

"This is a newly released decision,’’ Duvar news site cited ruling Justice and Development (AKP) spokesman Ömer Çelik as saying.

"The Turkish judicial system will evaluate it and do what's necessary,’’ he added.

Demirtaş took to Twitter to react to the right court’s ruling, saying it served to affirm that the six year long legal activities against himself and his friends had been “politically motivated.’’

“This decision is also a certification that the system of law and justice in Turkey is being destroyed at the hands of the government,’’ the Kurdish politician said.

Demirtaş also expressed sorrow for not only himself but all 83 million people of Turkey who are paying the price for the country’s “dissolved democracy and justice.’’

In 2018, the ECHR ruled that Demirtaş’s confinement without new evidence would amount to continued violations of Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Demirtaş faces dozens of charges, which, if combined, could exceed 140 years in prison sentences.
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