HRW urges Turkey to comply with ECHR ruling for release of Demirtaş

Turkey “must ensure the immediate release from detention” of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş following Tuesday’s European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) Grand Chamber ruling, the Human Rights Watch said on the same day.

The ECHR’s “very strong judgment” confirmed that the Turkish government had kept the former co-chair of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish left-wing opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Demirtaş, behind bars “for political reasons,” HRW’s Europe and Central Asia Director Hugh Williamson said.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s presidency in Turkey “weaponizes detention and prosecution to remove opponents from the political scene,” said Williamson.

Demirtaş was arrested on Nov. 4, 2016, along with fellow HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ and several deputies, and placed in the Edirne Type F Prison, close to Turkey’s northwestern border, more than 1,600 km from Diyarbakır where his family resides.

The ECHR Grand Chamber on Tuesday found a lack of reasonable suspicion to justify Demirtaş’s initial detention, and elaborated on earlier rulings that his imprisonment had been pursued for political ends.

According to the HRW, the ruling is notable for its reference to Demirtaş’s current detention, which was ordered by a court in September last year in addition to a separate group of accusations the Kurdish leader faced trial for.

Demirtaş’s current arrest is connected to proceedings over the mass street protests that took place between Oct. 6 and 8 in 2014, when Kurds throughout Turkey took to the streets to protest an Islamic State siege of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane.

The crackdown against what has come to be known as the Kobane incidents intensified this year with Turkish courts issuing arrest warrants for 82 HDP members, followed by the arrest of at least 19, and the remand in custody of four former prominent female HDP deputies.

The ECHR pointed out that Demirtaş had been detained for his alleged role in incidents for which he was already on trial, HRW said.

“The Turkish government must act without delay and cannot disregard this judgment with specious arguments that it doesn’t apply to Demirtaş’s current detention,” Williamson said, pointing to Turkey’s obligation to implement ECHR rulings, as stipulated by Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution.