MEPs call on EU member states to take action at CoE meeting for release of Demirtaş

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Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have called on EU member states to use all means at their disposal to ensure the release of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş in accordance with a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and to take action at an upcoming ministerial meeting of the Council of Europe (CoE), the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

In their joint letter six MEPs from the main political groups in the EP, including former Turkey rapporteur Kati Piri and current Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor, asked EU governments to adopt a strong declaration during the CoE’s Committee of Ministers’ meeting to be held in May.

Demirtaş has been in prison since November 2016 on politically motivated charges in spite of two binding rulings in favor of his release by the ECtHR. The Turkish government still refuses to release Demirtaş, and a Turkish court on January 7 accepted a new indictment against him and 107 others calling for life sentences in relation to the Kobani protests of 2014.

“We urge you to use any means at your disposal to ensure Turkey’s full compliance with the Grand Chamber’s judgment and secure Mr. Demirtaş’ immediate release,” the MEPs stated, noting that his situation has “become a symbol for Turkey’s backsliding on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

“The people of Turkey deserve to live in freedom,” the letter underlined.

The Committee of Ministers is the CoE’s decision-making body. It is both a governmental body where national approaches to European problems are discussed on an equal footing and a forum to find collective responses to these challenges.

The EP previously adopted a resolution calling on Turkey to comply with the ECtHR ruling for the immediate release of Demirtaş. The resolution was approved in January by 590 votes in favor, 16 against and 75 abstentions.

In the resolution the EP also urged Turkish authorities to drop all charges against him and another jailed Kurdish politician, Figen Yüksekdağ, former co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, and the other imprisoned members of the party.

The HDP has been the subject of a government crackdown since a coup attempt in July 2016, leading to the arrest of hundreds of its politicians and the removal of democratically elected mayors, mainly in the country’s Southeast.

In December the Strasbourg-based court found Turkey guilty of violating the rights of Demirtaş 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. The court’s ruling was made by its Grand Chamber following appeals from both Turkey and Demirtaş to the court’s original ruling in November 2018.

Most recently, the ECtHR has asked Turkey to provide its defense for the pre-trial detention of Demirtaş in connection to street protests in the country’s Southeast in 2014 that claimed the lives of 37 people.

Demirtaş had called for street protests in support of Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Kobani while accusing Ankara of failing to provide adequate help to Kobani and of supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which had laid siege to the town.

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