Council of Europe urges Turkish authorities to release Demirtaş

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted on Thursday a interim resolution “Strongly urging” the Turkish authorities to ensure the immediate release of the imprisoned Kurdish leader Selahattin DemirtaÅŸ, Turkish minute reported.

DemirtaÅŸ was co-chair of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) when he was arrested in November 2016. He has since been behind bars despite a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in November 2018 according to which the pre-trial detention was political and ordering his release. Turkish courts refused to implement the ruling, and a regional court of appeal in Turkey later upheld a prison sentence imposed on DemirtaÅŸ for disseminating terrorist propaganda.

The Committee of Ministers, referring to the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights of 2018 and 2020 which concluded that the detention of DemirtaÅŸ pursued “the unacknowledged aim of stifling pluralism and limiting the freedom of political debate” and ordered his immediate release, expressed “his deep concern that the applicant has been continuously deprived of his liberty since November 2016.”

The resolution stressed that Turkey is obliged to take measures to restore DemirtaÅŸ, to the extent possible, “to the position it would have enjoyed had these violations not taken place”, asserting that such measures should be “compatible with the findings and the spirit of the Court judgment. “

The ministers also “expressed the strong hope that the [Turkish] The Constitutional Court concludes its examination of the applicant’s complaints as soon as possible and in a manner compatible with the spirit and the conclusions of the [European] Judgment of the Court.

DemirtaÅŸ was a vocal critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan, before being jailed. He ran in the 2014 and 2018 presidential elections as a rival to ErdoÄŸan. DemirtaÅŸ campaigned from prison for the 2018 elections.

Today the Council of Europe announced that it will initiate disciplinary action against Turkey for refusing to release prominent activist and businessman Osman Kavala.

The Committee of Ministers has ruled on Turkey’s repeated refusal to comply with a 2019 decision of the European Court of Human Rights to release Kavala from prison, he said in a statement. The committee is responsible for overseeing the implementation of court verdicts.

The CoE will initiate the so-called infringement procedure, used only once in the organisation’s history against Azerbaijan in 2017 for its refusal to release a dissident.

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