European politicians call on the European Union and Council of Europe to push for Demirtaş’ release

Members of the European Parliament have called on Turkey in a new open letter released on Monday to free opposition leader Selahattin Demirtaş after the top human rights court in Europe called for his freedom.

“We, leading Members of the main political groups in the European Parliament, call on you to  do everything within your power to ensure the swift implementation of the judgment of the  Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of Mr. Selahattin  Demirtaş v. Turkey (No.2), including through the discussion of his situation at the upcoming  meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the adoption of a strong  declaration on the matter,” read the letter to the Delegation of the European Union and Council of Europe.

Turkey has to date refused to follow this ruling with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing the ECHR of “defending a terrorist.” His nationalist coalition partner Devlet Bahceli has upped the ante by calling for the complete shutdown of Demirtaş’ left-wing pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). 

The letter described Demirtaş’ continued confinement as “a stark violation of the obligations placed on a Member State of the Council of Europe and  threatens to undermine the credibility of the Court.” It went on to urge members to use any means available to pressure Turkey to release the politician. 

Demirtaş was detained in November 2016 after his parliamentary immunity was lifted after accusations that he was accused of being supportive of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He has denied all of these charges against him. Other Turkish opposition leaders including from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Good Party (Iyi) have called on the government to release Demirtaş after the ECtHR ruling.

Demirtaş’ case has been picked up across Europe’s political spectrum. Last week, Germany issued a call for his release from custody and a constellation of left-wing blocs have long advocated the same. 

The letter released on Monday was signed by the former Turkey rapporteur of the European Parliament Kati Piri and the current holder of that office Nacho Sanchez Amor.