Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) rapporteurs on Dec. 23 demanded the immediate release of prominent Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş.
"Selahattin Demirtaş must be freed from prison - and free to exercise his political rights in a democratic society again without further delay," said the PACE's Turkey rapporteurs, Thomas Hammarberg and Boriss Cilevičs.
“Our Assembly has repeatedly underscored that the place of deputies is in parliament, not in prison. The Court’s final ruling confirmed that Mr Demirtaş’ initial and continued pre-trial detention significantly reduced the scope of free democratic debate,” said the rapporteurs, referring to the European Court of Human Rights' (ECHR) order for Demirtaş's release.
The rapporteurs also said that Demirtaş's immediate release would “be a strong and meaningful signal” of Turkey’s willingness to comply with the ECHR's judgments and the country's “genuine commitment to fundamental values underlying its membership to the Council of Europe.”
The statement came after the ECHR on Dec. 22 ruled that Turkey should take all necessary measures to secure Demirtaş's immediate release from prison. The Grand Chamber of the ECHR said Demirtaş's arrest had sent a dangerous message to Turkish people, which it said was “a matter of indisputable gravity for democracy.”
Demirtaş currently faces a sentence of up to 142 years in prison if convicted of being the leader of a terrorist organization over his speeches during the 2014 protests that turned violent and led to the deaths of 37 people. He denies any wrongdoing.
Kurdish opposition members in Turkey are often slammed with terrorism-related charges for their participation in any civil or political movement in relation to their ethnicity. Turkish prosecution is quick to deem their activity propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, the European Union (EU) and the United States.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 23 said that the ECHR ruling wasn't binding for Ankara, as the international court "couldn't rule over Turkish courts."
Erdoğan himself has petitioned the ECHR three times in the past, once to revert a 10-month prison sentence in 1998, then to get his record wiped in 2002, and lastly to become a deputy in parliament the same year.