Erdoğan rejects European court’s 'non-binding' decision over Demirtaş

Erdoğan rejects European court’s 'non-binding' decision over Demirtaş

STRASBOURG

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has rejected a decision by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights calling for the release of Selahattin Demirtaş.

"The decisions delivered by the ECHR do not bind us," Erdoğan was quoted on Nov. 20 as saying by the state-run Anadolu Agency.

The court called on Turkey to release Demirtaş, saying his detention since 2016 on terror charges was aimed at "stifling pluralism".

Demirtaş, one of two former co-leaders of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was arrested in November 2016 over his alleged links to the illegal PKK.

At the time of his arrest he was a member of parliament.

The court in the French city of Strasbourg said it accepted that Demirtaş had been arrested on "reasonable suspicion" of committing a crime, but said the reasons given for keeping him behind bars were not "sufficient" and constituted "an unjustified interference with the free expression of the opinion of the people".

It found that the extension of his detention, particularly during a referendum on expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s powers and later a presidential election, were aimed at "stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate, which was at the very core of the concept of a democratic society".

"The court therefore held, unanimously, that the respondent state was to take all necessary measures to put an end to the applicant’s pre-trial detention," it added.  

Demirtaş, 45, is charged with a string of offences, including terrorist propaganda, for which he faces up to 142 years’ imprisonment if convicted.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the U.S

Demirtaş denies all the charges and claims the case against him is politically motivated.    

In June, he ran for president from prison, coming third with 8.4 percent of the vote.    

The ECHR hears cases of alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights of which Turkey is a signatory.  

Its rulings are binding on member states and Turkey, like fellow member Russia, has in the past usually implemented its findings.

It was unclear however whether it would comply with the order to release Demirtaş.

"Let's see the ruling first. The judicial authority that held [Demirtaş's] trial will respond with a new ruling,"  Turkey's Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said on Nov. 20.

Former HDP co-leader Demirtaş convicted over ‘terror propaganda’