European rights court requests Turkey’s defense for imprisonment of Kurdish leader over Kobani protests

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has asked Turkey to provide its defense for the pre-trial detention of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş in connection to street protests in the country’s Southeast in 2014 that claimed the lives of 37 people, Turkish Minute reported, citing Demirtaş’s lawyers.

On Jan. 7, a Turkish court accepted an indictment naming 108 people including jailed politicians Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, both former co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), in relation to the Kobani protests of 2014, seeking punishment for the suspects on various charges including 37 cases of homicide and disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state.

Demirtaş had called for street protests in support of Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Kobani while accusing Ankara of failing to provide adequate help to Kobani and of supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which had laid siege to the town.

Demirtaş’s lawyers Ramazan Demir and Benan Molu tweeted about a court document on Monday in which the Strasbourg court directed questions to the Turkish government regarding Demirtaş’s imprisonment in relation to the Kobani protests.

Turkey has kept Demirtaş, who has been behind bars since November 2016, in prison despite rulings from the ECtHR that called for his immediate release in 2018 and December 2020 as part of another case.

The seven questions directed to Turkey about Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention include whether Demirtaş has exhausted domestic legal remedies and whether Turkey’s Constitutional Court constitutes an effective legal remedy, considering that Demirtaş has had an application at the court pending since November 2019.

Following a decision from a Turkish court in September 2019 ordering Demirtaş’s release pending trial, another court blocked his release the same month after prosecutors demanded his rearrest over a fresh investigation on “terrorism” charges.

The ECtHR asked whether Demirtaş’s second arrest was in compliance with Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the the right to liberty and security of person.

In other questions, the rights court asked Turkey whether the restrictions imposed on Demirtaş’s legal dossier violated the rights of Demirtaş and his lawyers to have access to the investigation files, whether his freedom of expression was violated, whether his arrest was politically motivated and whether Article 18 of the European Convention of Human Rights was violated through his arrest. Article 18 of the convention states, “The restrictions permitted under this Convention to the said rights and freedoms shall not be applied for any purpose other than those for which they have been prescribed.”

Demirtaş was an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan before he was jailed. He ran against Erdoğan in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018. Demirtaş conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.

Erdoğan and his government have accused of Demirtaş of being a “terrorist” due to his alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.

Demirtaş denies the claim.

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