The appeals court in the Serbian capital Belgrade has overturned a lower court’s ruling to extradite Ecevit Piroğlu to Turkey after the Kurdish politician and activist spent 16 months in detention, campaigners for his release said in a tweet on Wednesday.
While Piroğlu has won the right to have his case heard again in a retrial, the court has not made a ruling regarding his release.
“The court has unlawfully disregarded even its own rules,” the campaigners said. Piroğlu has decided to continue his hunger strike, which has reached day 131.
“The appeals court halting the extradition is proof that the procedure was not based on concrete evidence and competence. As such, the extradition decision was made under much injustice and led to a detention contrary to procedures,” they continued.
According to the campaigners, Piroğlu currently weighs 48 kg, and cannot move about for more than 10 minutes. He is almost completely bedridden. “Every passing moment is a grave risk to his life that cannot be compensated for,” they said. “The local court continuing Piroğlu’s imprisonment in the retrial process which may continue for months will amount to murder.”
The campaigners called for the politician’s release and for Serbia to guarantee his right to life and healthcare.
Piroğlu has been an activist since 1992, and has worked as the director of Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD). He was jailed several times over the years due to his politics, and in 2021 left Turkey for Serbia following charges of terrorism over Turkey’s massive anti-government protests of 2013, dubbed Gezi Park Protests after the central Istanbul park they set out to protect. The activist later travelled to northern Syria to fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). He was arrested upon landing in Belgrade, and remains in custody. He started a hunger strike in June in protest. He is currently held in solitary confinement.
On the day Piroğlu started his hunger strike, 2 June, the UN Human Rights Committee asked Serbia to delay the extradition until a review of the case. His detention goes against UN Committee Against Torture guidelines, Serbian law, and previous court rulings, campaign coordinator Hüseyin Ateş told Balkan Insight in July.
Another activist, Mehmet Yozcu, started a hunger strike on 4 October to support Piroğlu’s plea, saying the activist had “continued to resist not just for himself but for us, for prisoners in dungeons, and for the oppressed, in a Serbian dungeon himself”.
Solidarity demonstrations were held in several European cities, including a recent one in Berlin.