Biden administration issues first statements on Turkey regarding Demirtaş, Kavala

The Biden administration on Saturday made its first statements on Turkey concerning two high profile prisoners in the country.

The U.S. State Department, in an email statement to Ahval, commented on imprisoned Kurdish politician and former leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, as well as jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala, whose acquittal in the Gezi Park case was reversed on Friday.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson, speaking on the Kavala verdict, wrote that "the United States continues to follow these cases very closely," adding, "We remain gravely concerned by this and a number of other indictments of civil society, media, political and business leaders in Turkey, and their prolonged pretrial detention."  

The statement also said that "The right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association is fundamental to any healthy democracy." 

"We continue to urge Turkey to respect these fundamental freedoms and to bring this case to a swift and just resolution," Biden's State Department said.

The court on Friday ordered to continue the trial of Kavala and 8 other defendants after providing the missing evidence, Turkish local press reported. The case will be sent back to the first-degree local court.

A U.S. spokesperson also commented the case of Demirtaş, the former co chair of the opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

On Friday, members of the European Parliament urged Ankara for the immediate and unconditional release of Demirtaş in accordance with rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decisions.

The U.S. State Department echoed the European Parliament's Jan. 21 resolution, noting,''We have taken note of the European Parliament's January 21 resolution, as well as the European Court of Human Rights' binding December ruling for the release of Selahattin Demirtaş.'' 

''We have addressed his case in our annual Human Rights Report, and publicly noted our concern at the time of his November 2016 arrest and subsequently when he was first convicted and received a lengthy sentence in 2017,'' the spokesperson added.

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

European lawmakers, on Friday, urged EU term president Germany and EU’s permanent representation to the Council of Europe to pursue the Demirtaş case closely 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.

The resolution called,“The human rights situation in Turkey, notably the case of Selahattin Demirtaş and other prisoners of conscience”, and passed with the majority of the votes.

Demirtaş’s temporary detention had been “long and illegal,” noted the lawmakers in the same resolution.

''Politically motivated prosecutions stifle political pluralism and limit free political debate, essential concepts of a democratic society,'' the U.S. State Department said. ''Undercutting the ability of opposition political parties to fully participate in democratic processes undermines the health of any democracy.  We urge Turkey to comply with its international obligations and uphold the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in its constitution.''