European lawmakers call for immediate, unconditional release of Selahattin Demirtaş

Members of the European Parliament urged Ankara for the immediate and unconditional release of imprisoned Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, former leader of the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), in accordance with rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decisions.

The resolution adopted by the European Parliament on Thursday also called for the dropping of all politically-motivated charges against other members of the HDP.

Demirtaş was detained alongside other HDP deputies on Nov. 4, 2016 over alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed militant group engaged in an internal conflict with Turkey since 1984.

Recalling the final judgment announced by the ECtHR Grand Chamber on Dec.22, and reminding that ECtHR rulings were binding for the Council of Europe member states, European lawmakers also urged EU term president Germany and EU’s permanent representation to the Council of Europe to pursue the issue closely.

The joint motion, prepared by all political groups in the EP under the title “The human rights situation in Turkey, notably the case of Selahattin Demirtaş and other prisoners of conscience”, passed with the majority of the votes.

Demirtaş’s temporary detention had been “long and illegal,” noted the lawmakers in the resolution, adding that it had continued for more than four years on unsubstantiated charges and in spite of two European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings, as well as the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey itself.

The European Parliament urged the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers to issue a declaration in a human rights meeting in March to call on Turkey to apply the resolution, which stated that Turkey’s “sustained backsliding on the independence of the judiciary and the disregard shown by the Turkish judiciary and authorities for rulings by the ECtHR are of great concern.”

Deputies called on Turkish authorities to end judicial harassment of human rights defenders, academics, journalists, spiritual leaders, lawyers, and members of the LGBTI community while also urging Ankara to immediately release Osman Kavala, a philanthropist and prominent figure in Turkish civil society who has been held in pre-trial detention since November 2017.

Kavala was acquitted of terrorism charges in February, but was arrested again over charges of espionage before he could be released.