ECHR finds Turkey guilty of violating rights of jailed pro-Kurdish HDP MP Demirtaş

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday ruled that Turkey has violated the freedom of expression of Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former co-chair of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

In a unanimous decision, the court voted that Turkey had violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights on freedom of expression by convicting Demirtaş for statements he made during a television broadcast in 2005, left-wing daily Sözcü reported.

Demirtaş, a former leader of the pro-Kurdish opposition HDP, has been in prison since 2016 and is accused of spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), among other terrorism charges.  The PKK is an armed group that has fought Turkish security forces for Kurdish self-rule since 1984. Ankara, the EU and the United States designate the PKK a terrorist organisation.

While working as the director of the Diyarbakır Human Rights Association in 2005, Demirtaş urged the authorities and the public to consider the potential role of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in finding a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem while calling for an improvement in the conditions of his detention.

Such statements could not be tantamount to hate speech, incitement to engage in violence, armed resistance or rebellion, the ECHR ruled.

The ECHR ordered Turkey to pay Demirtaş 2,500 euros in non-pecuniary damage and 1,000 euros in lieu of legal costs, Sözcü said.

The latest ECHR ruling follows a demand by the court for the release of Demirtaş in November.

Ankara dismissed the ruling shortly after it was passed, saying it did not legally bind Turkey and vowing to continue with the trial of the former HDP co-chair.

Demirtaş faces a total of up to 142 years in prison if convicted of all the charges against him.