U.S. Rights Commission says Kurdish leader Demirtaş a prisoner of conscience

The U.S. Congressional Human Rights Commission has recognised jailed Kurdish lawmaker Selahattin Demirtaş as a prisoner of conscience, its official website said. 

 The commission listed the 45-year-old former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair as being “imprisoned alongside other prisoners of conscience for the peaceful expression of their political, religious, or other conscientiously held beliefs, or for their identity,” despite not having used violence.

 Demirtaş, who led Turkey’s third largest party, was detained in July 2018 on terrorism-related charges. He is accused of, among others, "carrying out terrorist propaganda," including supporting peace negotiations between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed group that has fought for autonomy in Turkey for more than three decades.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in November said Demirtaş should be released, saying his detention had the "ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate".

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the ECHR ruling was not binding.