Liliane Maury Pasquier, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has released a statement on the sentencing to prison of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and former HDP deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder on September 7, 2018 for statements they made in 2013, saying, “The place of parliamentarians must not be in prison.”
Stating that PACE is closely monitoring the situation of parliamentarians and former parliamentarians currently in detention in Turkey, Pasquier said: “The sentencing on 7 September of the former co-President of the pro-Kurdish HDP party Selahattin Demirtas and former HDP parliamentarian Sirri Süreyya Önder to several years’ imprisonment for statements made in 2013 is of particular concern to me, as is the situation of other parliamentarians and former opposition parliamentarians in detention or under prosecution for ‘terrorist’ acts.”
“The place of parliamentarians must not be in prison,” the PACE president said and added: “Freedom of expression is at the heart of the exercise of our parliamentary mandates. It must be protected and guaranteed, in accordance with the well-established case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. It is a cornerstone of the proper functioning of our democracies – and an essential condition for the respect of human rights that is incumbent on all Council of Europe member States.”
“We must engage, therefore, in a dialogue with the authorities and parliamentarians of Turkey, to find a solution and to ensure that the parliamentarians and former parliamentarians currently in detention can be released and exercise their political activity as they should in a democracy.”
The Turkish government has been stepping up its crackdown on its Kurdish minority since 2016. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, while hundreds of national and local Kurdish politicians have been arrested on terror charges.
A number of HDP officials are currently imprisoned. One of them is the party’s former co-chair Demirtaş, who ran as the party’s presidential candidate in the June 24 election. Demirtaş received 8,4 percent of the vote in the election, which took place under an ongoing state of emergency.
Meanwhile, the HDP made it above the much-criticized 10 percent threshold a party needs to surpass in order to secure seats in parliament. The HDP won 11,7 percent of the vote in the parliamentary race on June 24 and secured 67 seats in the 600-seat parliament.