Turkey’s Islamist opposition party leader calls for release of Demirtaş, Kavala

Temel Karamollaoğlu, the leader of Turkey’s Islamist opposition Felicity Party (SP), on Sunday called for the release of Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and prominent businessman and rights activist Osman Kavala, Turkish media reported.

Speaking to TV 100 on Sunday, Karamollaoğlu urged President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to abide by European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings.

“The HDP is a legitimate party and is represented in the Turkish parliament,” he said. “Selahattin Demirtaş should be released. … I say the same thing for Kavala.’’

Karamollaoğlu also reminded Erdoğan that he had once been unlawfully imprisoned for reciting a poem in 1999.

Demirtaş, who was the co-chairperson of the 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 handed down to Demirtaş for disseminating terrorist propaganda.

Demirtaş was an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, President 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.

Kavala, who was initially accused of organizing the Gezi Park protests, which were sparked in opposition to government plans to redevelop Gezi Park in İstanbul’s Taksim neighborhood in May 2013 and quickly turned into nationwide anti-government protests, was later accused of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt.

An İstanbul court ruled to keep him in jail during his latest hearing on October 8.

The ECtHR ruled in December 2019 that the prolonged pretrial detention of Kavala was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and ordered his immediate release. But Turkey hasn’t abided by the ruling despite repeated calls by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.

A written statement by the ambassadors of Canada, France, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the US on October 18 stated that continued delays in the trial of Kavala, who has been behind bars for four years on what many say are politically motivated charges, “cast a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law and transparency in the Turkish judiciary system.”

The 10 envoys were summoned on Tuesday to the Turkish foreign ministry. President Erdoğan on Thursday threatened to expel the ambassadors, saying “I told our foreign minister that we cannot have the luxury of hosting them in our country.”

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