Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition appeals to European court over detentions

The arrest of Demirtaş and Yuksekdag, in Diyarbakir. [Yolculuk Gazette]

Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish opposition party said yesterday (20 February) it had appealed to the European Court of Human Rights over what it said was the unlawful imprisonment of its two leaders on terrorism-related charges.

The arrest last November of the leaders of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) drew international condemnation over what rights groups say is a widening crackdown on dissent under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkey arrests leaders of pro-Kurdish HDP party

The two joint leaders of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) have been detained, along with at least 11 MPs, allegedly because of their reluctance to give testimony for crimes linked to “terrorist propaganda.”

The arrests have left parliament’s second-largest opposition party without its elected leadership as campaigning begins for a 16 April referendum on extending the president’s powers. The HDP, which says as many as 5,000 of its members have also been detained, opposes the changes.

Turkey removes two dozen elected mayors in Kurdish militant crackdown

Turkey appointed new administrators in two dozen Kurdish-run municipalities yesterday (11 September) after removing their elected mayors over suspected links to militants, triggering pockets of protest in its volatile southeastern region bordering Syria and Iraq.

“The continuing imprisonment pending trial of the co-chairs of the HDP … constitutes a violation of the right to freedom and security, freedom of speech and the right to free elections,” the HDP said in a statement.

“The situation is particularly critical as Turkey is now heading for a referendum,” it said.

Prosecutors are seeking jail terms of up to 142 years for HDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş and 83 years for co-leader Figen Yuksekdag on charges including managing a terror organisation, inciting violence, and terrorist propaganda, according to a court indictment seen by Reuters last month.

Demirtas: EU ignoring Turkey crackdown in bid for refugee deal

The European Union is turning a blind eye to human rights violations in Turkey in a doomed bid for a solution to its migrant crisis, the leader of Turkey’s main Kurdish party told a Greek newspaper today (17 February).

Armed insurgency

Erdoğan and the government say the HDP is an affiliate of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an armed insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast for more than three decades.

The HDP denies direct links to the outlawed group and says it wants to see a return to peace talks between the government and the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Erdoğan has seized on the HDP’s opposition to constitutional change to argue that those who vote “no” in the April referendum will be siding with supporters of terrorism.

New Turkey reform could see Erdogan stay in power until 2029

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has approved a constitutional reform bill that would vastly strengthen the powers of his office and a referendum on the issue is likely on 16 April, officials said today (10 February).

The plans would replace Turkey’s current parliamentary system with an executive presidency. Erdoğan’s supporters say the change will give Turkey stronger leadership, but critics say it will lead to one-man rule and erode basic freedoms.

Turkey is one of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), from which the Strasbourg-based court draws its authority. Its powers to enforce decisions are limited.

Turkish purges exposed by Council of Europe

The breadth and depth of the purges carried out following the coup attempt in Turkey was exposed today (19 December), after the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly published facts and figures showing the extent of the crackdown.

Just over a year ago, the ECHR turned down requests that it call for an end to curfews in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast, where security forces were battling the PKK, although it said Ankara should ensure access to medical treatment.

Turkey blocks MEPs from visiting imprisoned Kurdish leader

Turkish authorities on Monday (21 November) blocked a delegation of national and European Parliament lawmakers from visiting the leader of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party, who has been held in jail for almost three weeks.