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CoE calls for immediate release of pro-Kurdish politicians Demirtaş, Yüksekdağ

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The Council of Europe’s (CoE) Committee of Ministers has urged Turkish authorities to ensure the immediate release of former pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, local media reported on Thursday.

Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ, who have been imprisoned since 2016 on terrorism-related charges, were outspoken critics of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, before they were jailed. Both leaders’ imprisonment continues despite rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) urging their release.

The committee, responsible for overseeing the implementation of judgments by the ECtHR, on Wednesday published the case-by-case decisions taken during its June 5-7 meeting.

Urging the immediate release of the pro-Kurdish politicians, the deputies underlined that Demirtaş remains in detention despite the committee’s previous calls and the interim resolution adopted to that effect at the March DH meeting.

The committee expressed their “deepest regret” that the Constitutional Court has not delivered its decision on Demirtaş’s current detention and that the 22nd Assize Court has not considered alternative measures to detention, which they said, “pursued the ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate.”

Demirtaş’s lawyer, Mahsuni Karaman, who announced the decision of the committee in a series of tweets on Thursday, said the committee will “assess the next steps” if Demirtaş is not released by the September session.

Earlier this week, the ECtHR ruled that Turkey had violated the rights of Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ by failing to respect the confidentiality of their interviews with their lawyers.

The ECtHR held that the authorities failed to demonstrate exceptional circumstances justifying the infringement of the principle of confidentiality of the applicants’ interviews with their lawyers. The violation of this principle prevented the effective assistance of their lawyers, thus failing to meet the requirements of Article 5 § 4 (right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

As a result of the violation, the ECtHR awarded each applicant €5,500 in non-pecuniary damages and jointly €2,500 for costs and expenses.

The court’s judgment is not final and may be referred to its Grand Chamber for further review within three months. Once the decision becomes final, it will be transmitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to monitor its execution.

The HDP currently faces a closure case on charges of “attempting to destroy the indivisibility between the state and the people,” and hundreds of its politicians, including former co-chairs, are behind bars on terrorism charges, while most of the 65 HDP mayors elected in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast in 2019 have been replaced by government-appointed trustees.

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