Former co-chairs of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ should be immediately released from prison, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers said in a statement following Wednesday’s deputy-level meeting.
The ministers’ deputies cited the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) ruling that Demirtaş had been “detained in the absence of evidence” and that his arrest “pursued an ulterior purpose”, calling on Turkish authorities to immediately release the popular Kurdish politician and explore “alternative measures to detention pending the completion of the proceedings”. The rulings issued in the case of Demirtaş are also applicable to Yüksekdağ.
The committee will “consider further steps” if the politicians are not released by September, when the ministers will handle the matter again next.
In February last year, the committee began infringement proceedings against Turkey over the country failing to implement ECHR rulings on Demirtaş and prominent philanthropist Osman Kavala. The second-ever in history invocation of the proceedings may result in Ankara losing voting rights in the council, or even ultimately expulsion.
Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ were arrested in November 2016 along with several other top level HDP officials on charges of terrorism. In 2018, incitement charges were added on top over a series of demonstrations dubbed the Kobanê Protests.