European deputies set to call for release of prominent political prisoners in Turkey

Members of the European Parliament are expected to call for the immediate release of the imprisoned former leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and other prisoners of conscience during a debate on Thursday, according to Bianet.

The urgent debate on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law will see European lawmakers vote on the situation in Turkey, with the case of Selahattin Demirtaş likely to feature prominently.

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 the Turkish state since 1984.

The former HDP co-leader remains behind bars in high-security Edirne prison despite repeated rulings for his releases by both domestic Turkish courts and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

In a statement prior to the debate, President of the European Parliament delegation to Turkey Sergey Lagodinsky called on authorities to fulfil their commitments to free Demirtaş and act in accordance with international human rights standards, Bianet said.

Lagodinsky also urged Ankara to release other prisoners of conscience, including philanthropist Osman Kavala, and Cihan Erdal, a 32-year-old PhD student and former executive committee member of the HDP.

Releasing these prisoners would provide a good start in the efforts to normalise EU relations recently called for by senior Turkish figures, Lagodinsky said.

Osman Kavala, a philanthropist and prominent civil society figure, has been held in pre-trial custody since November 2017 on charges of seeking to overthrow the government. In February, he was acquitted off terrorism charges relating to the 2013 Gezi park protest movement, before being immediately remanded in custody over accusations of involvement in the 2016 failed coup attempt.    

Co-president of the Greens/EFA European Parliament group Ska Keller also called on Ankara to immediately release Cihan Erdal and end chaos in the legal system, Bianet reported.

Cihan Erdal, a permanent resident of Canada, was detained in September alongside more than 80 others in relation to what has become known as the Kobane incidents.

In October 2014, street protests broke out across Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the predominantly Kurdish city of Kobane was set to fall to Islamic State (ISIS) forces in northern Syria despite repeated requests for support.