European Court of Human Rights calls for immediate release of Kurdish leader Demirtaş in new ruling

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on Tuesday called for the immediate release of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been behind bars on politically motivated charges since November 2016, finding Turkey guilty of violating his rights on five accounts, Turkish Minute reported.

The court’s ruling was made by its Grand Chamber following appeals from both Turkey and Selahattin Demirtaş to the court’s original ruling in November 2018. The Grand Chamber said Demirtas’ pre-trial detention since November 2016 had sent “a dangerous message to the entire population” that sharply narrowed free democratic debate.

The court ruled by 16 votes to one that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights; by 15 votes to two that there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security); by 16 votes to one that there had been a violation of Article 5 § 3 (right to liberty and security); by 16 votes to one that there had been no violation of Article 5 § 4 (right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention); unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (right to free elections); by 16 votes to one that there had been a violation of Article 18 (limitations on use of restrictions on rights) in conjunction with Article 5; and by 15 votes to two that the respondent state was to take all necessary measures to secure the applicant’s immediate release (Article 46 of the convention).

In a statement Demirtaş said the decision shows that Turkey’s judicial system was destroyed by the government itself.

“The public already knew Selahattin was innocent, and now it has been confirmed by the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR. His four-year-long arrest was an abhorrent crime, if his release is prevented from this point on, it will constitute a moral crime,” tweeted Demirtaş’s wife Başak following the rights court’s ruling.

The court also ordered Turkey to pay Demirtaş 3,500 euros in pecuniary damages, 25,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 31,900 euros in costs and expenses.

Demirtaş, who was the co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) when he was arrested in November 2016, has been behind bars since then despite a decision from the ECtHR in November 2018 that ruled Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was a political act and ordered his release. Turkish courts refused to implement the European court’s ruling, and a regional appeals court in Turkey subsequently upheld a prison sentence given to Demirtaş for disseminating terrorist propaganda.

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. Demirtaş conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.

Erdoğan has accused of Demirtaş of being a “terrorist” due to his alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and has slammed calls for his release.

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