German minister urges Turkey to uphold freedom of speech after talk with Kurdish leaders

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Michael Roth, the minister of state for Europe at the German Federal Foreign Office, has called on Turkey to uphold human rights, freedom of speech in particular, after speaking to pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chairpersons Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar via video conference call, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Tuesday.

“Good, intensive talk with Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar of HDP. Freedom of speech and human rights aren’t just nice to have: they are fundamental components of democracy and rule of law. This also applies to Turkey,” Roth tweeted on Tuesday, without elaborating on the content of the talk.

 

According to a statement released on the HDP’s official website, Buldan and Sancar called Roth’s attention to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s ever-increasing crackdown on critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with special emphasis on pro-Kurdish politicians and activists.

The HDP co-chairs also underlined that the Turkish government’s implementation of a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling to release Selahattin Demirtaş, former leader of the HDP, would be a turning point for democracy in the country, the statement said.

Demirtaş, who ran for president twice against Erdoğan — once while incarcerated — and is a vocal critic of the government, was arrested on politically motivated charges in November 2016. He has been in prison since then, in spite of two binding rulings in favor of his release by the ECtHR.

The Council of Europe (CoE)’s Committee of Ministers is currently overseeing the implementation of judgments from the ECtHR, including those in the cases of Demirtaş and businessman and activist Osman Kavala, as part of its March 9-11 meeting. The committee is currently chaired by Germany.

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