Jailed Kurdish leader's wife calls on ECHR president to meet with Kurds

The wife of Selahattin Demirtaş, jailed former leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), has called on the president of the European Court of Human Rights, who is currently in Turkey, to visit the Kurdish majority southeast and hear out HDP officials.

ECHR President Roberto Spano has met with the  "Turkish president and government officials, who refuse to implement the court’s rulings,’’ but has failed to hear out the position of the embattled pro-Kurdish HDP members, Başak Demirtaş said on Twitter on Sunday.

Spano arrived in Turkey this week for a four-day visit, where he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan before attending an opening ceremony of the Turkish Justice Academy in the capital Ankara. The ECHR also received an honorary doctorate by one of the country’s oldest universities, Istanbul University. The president of Europe’s top court has come under criticism for effectively ignoring the country’s human rights violations and failing to meet with critical media nor human rights organisations targeted by Ankara.

“If you visit us in (the southeastern province of Diyarbakır), I would like to tell you about the cases of HDP lawmakers with the ECHR, beginning with that of my husband, Selahattin Demirtaş’’ the former HDP co-chairs wife said. “I am sure that you have more than an ample chance to learn about the position of the government.’’ 

In 2018, the ECHR ordered Selahattin Demirtaş to be released from prison, where he has been since Nov. 2016 on a string of terror charges. The court said the Kurdish politicians' detention had the "ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate". But Erdoğan said the ECHR rulings were not binding.

The government accuses the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for almost 40 years. The party has been faced with deputy removals from parliament, arrests and the dismissal of elected mayors as part of a government crackdown on the group, which has intensified since the failed coup attempt of July 2016.

“If you spend an hour with me, it will be enough to inform you about our position,’’ Başak Demirtaş said. “I would be glad to offer you Diyarbakır's hospitality.’’