Council of Europe urges Turkey’s top court to quickly conclude examination of Demirtaş’s detention

The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers’ Deputies has called on Turkey’s Constitutional Court to expeditiously examine an application from Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş concerning his ongoing detention in a manner compatible with earlier judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Turkish Minute reported on Monday.

The CoE’s Committee of Minister’s Deputies met for the 1,443rd Human Rights Meeting between Sept. 20 and 22 that examined several judgments of the ECtHR that are still pending implementation, including the case of Demirtaş, former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Demirtaş was arrested in November 2016 and has been behind bars since then despite an ECtHR ruling in November 2018 that Demirtaş’s pretrial detention was political and ordering his release. Turkish courts refused to implement the ruling, and a regional appeals court in Turkey subsequently upheld a prison sentence handed down to Demirtaş for disseminating terrorist propaganda.

A 2020 judgment also found that the detention of Demirtaş pursued the “ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate” and ordered his immediate release.

Noting with the “utmost concern” that his individual application challenging his current detention has been pending before the Constitutional Court since Nov. 7, 2019, the deputies who examined Demirtaş’s case last week underlined that the Kurdish leader’s complaint must be examined quickly and in a manner compatible with the spirit and conclusions of the ECtHR judgments, once again “strongly urging” Turkish authorities to assure his immediate release.

The deputies also urged the authorities once again to consider taking effective measures to strengthen the structural independence of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) to “ensure the full independence of the judiciary,” in particular from the executive branch, taking inspiration from the relevant CoE standards.

They also stressed the need to adopt concrete legislative and other measures capable of “strengthening freedom of political debate, pluralism, and the freedom of expression” of elected representatives, especially members of the opposition.

Demirtaş was an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, before he was jailed. He ran in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan. The imprisoned leader conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.

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