Human Rights Groups Call for Release of Kurdish Political Leader in Turkey

Human rights organizations on Friday called on the Turkish government to immediately release Selahattin Demirtas, former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been jailed for over four years, in accordance with a 2018 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, Kurdistan24 reports.s

The call to action was published jointly by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and ARTICLE 19 on Thursday. Turkish police arrested Demirtas along with 10 other MPs in simultaneous night raids across several provinces on Nov. 4, 2016, with charges of terrorism and separatism based on various public speeches they had delivered.

“The detention of Demirtas and eight other democratically elected Peoples’ Democratic Party members of parliament four years ago this month was the start of the government’s ongoing assault on the party and part of a broader pattern of politically motivated prosecutions and incarcerations in the wake of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt,” said the two rights watchdog groups.

“The Turkish government should also review the detentions of the other former HDP deputies, including the co-chair of the party, Figen Yüksekdağ, on whose cases the European Court of Human Rights has yet to rule.”

Emma Sinclair-Webb, the senior Turkey researcher at HRW, told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday that “a look at the speeches of President Erdogan and the machinations of prosecutors and courts to keep Selahattin Demirtas locked up over the past four years serves to show that there has been a deliberate government-led campaign to punish him as the former co-chair of a political opposition party.”

The European Court of Human Rights in November 2018 ordered the government of Turkey to release Kurdish political leader Demirtas, calling his detention unlawful.

The 19th Assize Court of Ankara “ruled unanimously” on Sept. 2 2019 for the release of the former HDP co-chair. However, on September 20, the day that Demirtas could have been released, the Ankara chief prosecutor cited an old and dormant ongoing investigation as grounds to detain Demirtas and Yüksekdağ, the former HDP co-chairs.

“Since the European Court’s November 2018 judgment ordering his immediate release, Turkey has made every possible move to bypass that judgment and prevent him getting out of detention,” Sinclair-Webb added.