EU calls on Turkey to release Kurdish politician Demirtas

Former co-chair of People’s Democratic Party Selahattin Demirtas delivers a speech in Istanbul during a rally on the lawmakers’ immunity, on June 5, 2016. (AFP)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The European Union on Friday called on Ankara to release Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas and philanthropist Osman Kavala, as Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe.

EU has repeatedly conveyed its “serious concern” about continued negative developments as regards the rule of law, fundamental rights and the judiciary in Turkey, said a spokesperson for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

“As a candidate country and long-standing member of the Council of Europe, Turkey urgently needs to make concrete and sustained progress in the respect of fundamental rights, which are a cornerstone of EU-Turkey relations,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“This includes the swift implementation by the Turkish judiciary of the European Court of Human Rights judgements and the release of Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtas as a matter of urgency,” it added.

Kavala, 65, was arrested on charges related to the failed 2016 coup. He has denied charges of involvement in the attempted coup.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday that Demirtas, former leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), must be freed immediately.

The court said Turkey’s justification for his detention longer than four years on terrorism-related offences was a pretext for limiting political debate — a ruling dismissed by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Demirtas faces a sentence of up to 142 years in prison if convicted of being the leader of a “terrorist organization” over his speeches during protests in 2014 that turned violent and led to 37 deaths. He denies any wrongdoing.

Ankara accuses the HDP of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has waged an insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984 and is deemed a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

The HDP, the third-largest in Turkey’s parliament, denies links to terrorism, yet has seen thousands of its officials and members arrested in recent years, mainly on terrorism charges.

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