Erdogan slams European rights court’s ruling in support of Kurdish leader

File photo. Supporter of the pro-Kurdish party Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) shout slogans as they attend 'Peace and Justice' rally with picture of jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas in Istanbul, Turkey, 3 February 2019. [Sedat Suna/EPA/EFE]

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday (23 December)  blasted the top European rights court’s call for Turkey to release Kurdish political leader Selahattin Demirtaş after four years in jail.

Erdoğan said the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued an “entirely political” ruling by publishing its judgement before Demirtaş had used up all his legal challenges in Turkish courts.

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

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.

Demirtaş was convicted of disseminating terror propaganda in 2018 and is facing other charges that could see him sentenced to 142 years behind bars.

The Court stated on Tuesday it had found several violations of the Convention, particularly freedom of expression, the right to liberty and security and the right to free elections.

The Court has also found that the reasons put forward by the authorities for the applicant’s pre-trial detention were merely cover for an ulterior political purpose: that of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate, which is at the very core of the concept of a democratic society.

Lastly, the ECHR has held that Turkey is to take all necessary measures to secure the applicant’s immediate release.

47-year-old Demirtaş led his pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to its first-ever appearance in the Turkish parliament in 2015 and challenged Erdoğan in the 2016 presidential election.

He finished third with almost 10% of the vote.

Turkish authorities suspect the HDP of being a political front for outlawed Kurdish militants, who have waged an insurgency against the state since 1984.

Demirtaş is also accused of fomenting 2014 protests that spread to Turkey after Islamic State (IS) group jihadists fought to capture the mainly Kurdish northern Syrian border town of Kobane.

That unrest claimed the lives of 37 people in Turkey.

Turkey is bound by the Strasbourg-based court’s decision because it is a member of the Council of Europe.

But Erdoğan called the court’s decision full of “double standards” and “hypocrisy”.

“The ECHR should know that they defend, they stand behind a terrorist,” Erdoğan said.

“He is guilty in the eyes of our nation not because of his political beliefs but because he failed to distance himself from terror groups that were responsible for the killing of dozens (of people),” he said.

Erdoğan’s comments came moments after the ECHR reported being the target of a “large-scale cyberattack” shortly after it published the Demirtaş ruling.

The court said the attack disabled its site for several hours.

“At this time, no data appears to have been lost,” the court’s press agency told AFP.

The ECHR said the identity or origin of the attackers had not yet been established.

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