A Turkish court ruled Friday that the former leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition party will remain in prison, despite calls from top EU officials for the politician’s swift release.
Selahattin Demirtaş is the former co-chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and one of Turkey’s best-known politicians. He was detained two years ago on terrorism-related charges, which he denies.
Last week the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) stated that Demirtaş’ pre-trial detention had gone on longer than could be justified and urged Turkey to process his legal case swiftly. Hours after this ruling, Demirtaş’ lawyers applied for his immediate release. In its ruling, the Turkish court denied the appeal for Demirtaş’ release, saying that the ECHR’s decision had not yet been finalized and was not binding.
Benan Molu, one of Demirtaş’ lawyers, stated on Twitter that the ECHR’s ruling “does not need to be finalised for it to be implemented,” and that “Every second he (Demirtas) is held in prison despite the ECHR ruling, there is a crime being committed.” ECHR rulings are legally binding, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dismissed the ruling on Demirtas, saying that it amounts to support for terrorism.
Demirtaş and several other HDP leaders have been imprisoned for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which has been fighting the Turkish Army for decades and is considered a terrorist organization by the EU, US, and Turkey. Demirtaş was sentenced to four years in prison for “terror propaganda” in support of the outlawed PKK. The HDP denies direct links.