Respect ECHR and immediately release Demirtaş, says Turkish main opposition party

Turkey must respect the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling and release Selahattin Demirtaş, a prominent opposition politician held for two years pending trial, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has said.

“If we wish to be perceived as a government that respects the state of law, we must abide by the ECHR’s decision,” CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in a statement on the ruling.

The ECHR demanded the release of Demirtaş, a former leader of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been held since 2016 accused of spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The court ruled that the extensions to Demirtaş’s detention throughout two crucial elections had been designed to stifle pluralism and limit political debate.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dismissed the ruling shortly after it was passed, saying it did not legally bind Turkey and vowing to continue with the trial of Demirtaş.

However, CHP deputy leader Gökçe Gökçen said in another statement on the issue that Turkey, as a founding member of the Council of Europe, is bound to respect the ECHR’s rulings on matters of both domestic and international law.

“The court found that Demirtaş has been held this long for political reasons, and he should be released at once,” Gökçen said.

Gamze Pamuk Ateşli, a lawyer and CHP deputy, told Turkish secularist news channel Halk TV the ECHR’s ruling had brought support in her party.

“We demand that this ruling is followed. We ask and wish that (Demirtaş) is released immediately. We long to see that the Turkish judiciary is independent,” said Ateşli.

“This is a verdict that has pleased all of us, and at the least we are seeing a possibility for the end of unlawfulness,” she said.

While the CHP has rallied behind the ECHR verdict on Demirtaş, the party’s decision to vote with the ruling Justice and Development Party to remove parliamentary immunity from deputies was partly responsibility for the current repression of HDP politicians. Nine of the party’s deputies are behind bars, many for alleged links to the PKK, an armed group that has fought Turkish security forces for Kurdish self-rule since 1984.