Erdoğan says ECHR's ruling for Selahattin Demirtaş's immediate release isn't binding for Turkey

President Erdoğan has dismissed the ECHR's ruling that Selahattin Demirtaş should be released, saying that the ruling is not binding for Turkey. "The ECHR approves all the cases related to terror that are launched against Turkey," Erdoğan said on Dec. 22.

Duvar English 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dismissed a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding prominent Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, saying that the court's rulings are not binding for Turkey.

Speaking during a Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Dec. 22, Erdoğan said that the ECHR rules against Turkey in "all the cases that are related to terror."

The ECHR ruled on Dec. 22 that Turkey must immediately release Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) former co-chair Demirtaş, saying the justification for his four years in prison was a cover for limiting pluralism and debate.

The Grand Chamber of the ECHR said Demirtaş - who is charged with terrorism-related offenses - had had his rights violated under five different categories, including freedom of expression and liberty.

Demirtaş's lawyers called the ruling "historic" and Western allies urged Ankara to act. But while such rulings are legally binding, Turkey has not implemented them in several past instances.

Similar to his previous remarks on ECHR rulings, Erdoğan on Dec. 22 said that the court acts against Turkey and "protects its own men." 

"No rulings were issued in our own courts. The ECHR issued this ruling when the domestic legal means are not yet exhausted," he said, while the AKP decided to look into the ruling after the translation of the 150-page decision is completed.

"This ruling is not binding for us," Erdoğan, who often targets Demirtaş in his speeches, added. 

'Hypocritical ruling'

A day later, Erdoğan once again slammed the ECHR during his address to AKP members in parliament, saying that the ruling is hypocritical and only Turkish courts can rule on his case.

"If the ECHR wants to be respected by Turkey, its needs to question its own contradictions," he said.

"The discussion concerns a person wearing a politician's mask who is intimate with the PKK and with the blood of tens of people on his hands," Erdoğan said, using the abbreviation of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The president said Demirtaş was guilty according to Turks for not being able to distance himself from the PKK.

Erdoğan also said that the court held a "double-standard" and its "hypocritical" ruling on Demirtaş contradicted a verdict related to the Batasuna party in Spain.

In 2009, the ECHR did not find any rights violation in the application related to Batasuna's closure and declaration as illegal.

'A dangerous message to the entire population'

According to the ECHR's Grand Chamber, Demirtaş's pre-trial detention since Nov. 4, 2016 had sent "a dangerous message to the entire population" that sharply narrowed free democratic debate.

Demirtaş faces a sentence of up to 142 years in prison if convicted of being the leader of the PKK over his actions during protests in 2014 that turned violent and led to the deaths of 37 people. He denies any wrongdoing.

Protesters in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast that year accused the army of standing by as ISIS militants besieged the Syrian Kurdish town Kobani, just across the border.

The ECHR said it saw no evidence in decisions on Demirtaş's detention that linked his actions and the alleged offenses.

"The Court concluded that the reasons put forward by the authorities for the applicant's pre-trial detention had merely been cover for an ulterior political purpose, which was a matter of indisputable gravity for democracy," it said in its finding.

"It has now become certain," Demirtaş said in a Twitter post responding to the ruling, "that the so-called judicial processes led against me and my friends for six years are all political, not lawful, [and] that we are innocent."

'Final and binding'

His lawyers said the ruling was one of the toughest judgments on rights violations in Turkey and was "final and binding."

Ankara accuses the HDP of ties to the PKK, which has waged an insurgency in the southeast since 1984 and is deemed a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union. The HDP denies having any connections with terrorism.

The HDP, chaired by Demirtaş from 2014 and 2018, has seen thousands of its officials and members arrested in recent years.

In 2018, a chamber of the ECHR ruled that Demirtaş's right to a speedy trial had been violated.

President Erdoğan responded at the time that Turkey would counter the ruling. Shortly afterward an appeals court approved a jail sentence against Demirtaş for disseminating terrorist propaganda in a 2013 speech, sealing his conviction.

In 2019, a court lifted an arrest warrant related to the main case while another agreed to release Demirtaş from the propaganda sentence given time already served. But a new arrest warrant related to the same events in 2014 kept him in jail.

The ECHR said Demirtaş's continued detention on such similar grounds "would entail a prolongation of the violation of his rights." 

Germany: ECHR ruling shows Demirtaş's imprisonment is political

The ECHR's ruling proves that Demirtaş's imprisonment is motivated by political reasons, Germany's Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance Bärbel Kofler said.

"The ECHR confirmed that Selahattin Demirtaş’s imprisonment is based on political motives. The court spoke clearly: He must be released," Kofler said.

The commissioner also urged Ankara to implement all ECHR rulings, as Turkey has failed to implement other orders from the court.