The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Turkey to release Turkish opposition politician and leader of pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples Party (HDP in Turkish) Selahattin Demirtas. In its judgment delivered on Tuesday, the ECHR also ordered Ankara to pay Demirtas 10,000 euros for non-pecuniary damage and 15,000 euros in legal costs.
The imprisonment of Demirtas aims to “stifle pluralism” and “limit the free play of political debate” in the country, said the Court. “His detention on remand constitutes an unjustified interference with the free expression of the opinion of the people and the right of the applicant to be elected and to exercise his parliamentary mandate,” said the European judges.
Detained since November 2016, Demirtas was sentenced in September to four years and eight months in prison for “terrorist propaganda”. He also stands accused of several other charges and faces a total of up to one hundred and forty-two years in prison.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted quickly to the court’s ruling, saying that “the decisions of the ECHR do not concern us at all”.
“We will counter-attack and put an end to this case,” he added, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
Judgments rendered by the ECHR are binding for the signatory countries of the European Convention on Human Rights, such as Turkey.
The HDP, which is the third largest party in the Parliament, has been severely affected by the purges conducted after the failed coup of July 2016.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly accused the HDP of being the political wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is classified as a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies.