Before assuming public office, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had applied three times to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which he recently said “cannot make rulings on behalf of Turkish courts” upon the ECtHR’s latest ruling calling for the immediate release of an opposition leader, the Mezopotamya News Agency reported on Wednesday.
Erdoğan labeled a decision announced by the ECtHR on Tuesday calling for the immediate release of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş an act of hypocrisy.
The Strasbourg-based court found Turkey guilty of violating the rights of Demirtaş, who has been in jail since November 2016, on five counts including violation of the rights to freedom of expression, liberty and security and free elections as well as limitations on the use of restrictions on rights.
“Basically, the European Court of Human Rights cannot make rulings to replace the verdicts of our own courts. Its decision can only be taken into consideration by our courts,” said Erdoğan.
However, according to Mezopotamya, which had researched previous instances when Erdoğan himself resorted to the European court, the Turkish president had filed three applications with the court prior to 2003, all of which he withdrew after becoming prime minister that year.
In 1999 Erdoğan filed an application with the rights court over a 10-month prison sentence upheld by Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals that was handed down over a poem he recited in 1997.
Erdoğan’s application said his right to a fair trial had been violated by Turkish courts.
After remaining in prison for four months, Erdoğan wanted to expunge his criminal record on the grounds that new regulations abolished the crime he was convicted of having committed and applied to the courts to achieve that end.
The Supreme Court of Appeals again ruled against him, and Erdoğan filed an application with the ECtHR in 2002 against the supreme court ruling to leave his criminal record intact, saying that “the ruling was an intervention in the will of the people.”
Lastly, Erdoğan applied to the rights court a third time against a ruling by Turkey’s top election body, which said he was ineligible to run for office because of his criminal record.
“We are going to use every means to protect our rights. This is no longer just Tayyip Erdoğan’s struggle for freedom. This is the struggle for freedom of our nation,” he said at the time.
After he was sworn in as prime minister in 2003, Erdoğan withdrew all his applications.
Fast forward to 2020, when Erdoğan slammed the ECtHR’s ruling on Demirtaş, saying his country was confronted with “double standards.”
“I want it known that we have no obligation to tolerate double standards and hypocrisy,” Erdoğan said.
The court’s Tuesday ruling was made by its Grand Chamber following appeals from both Turkey and Demirtaş to the court’s original ruling in November 2018.
Demirtaş, who was the co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) when he was arrested in November 2016, has been behind bars since then despite a decision from the ECtHR in November 2018 that ruled Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was a political act and called for his release. Turkish courts refused to implement the European court’s ruling, and a regional appeals court in Turkey subsequently upheld a prison sentence given to Demirtaş for disseminating terrorist propaganda.
The court also ordered Turkey to pay Demirtaş 3,500 euros in pecuniary damages, 25,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 31,900 euros in costs and expenses.
Demirtaş was an outspoken critic of Erdoğan before he was jailed. He ran in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan.
Demirtaş conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.
Erdoğan has accused of Demirtaş of being a “terrorist” due to his alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and has slammed calls for his release.