Selahattin Demirtas, imprisoned former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), filed a request to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on February 19, to revise the decision on the court’s ruling in November 2018 that urged Turkey to end his pre-trial detention.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded to the ECHR ruling saying, “We will make our move and deal with it.” On December 4, shortly after these words were spoken, an appeals court handling another case of Demirtas affirmed the sentence, thereby rendering the European Court’s decision null and void.
According to a written statement by the former HDP leader’s lawyers, an appeal has been filed before the Grand Chamber of the court to revise the ruling of the respective Chamber, which found some of the matters unacceptable yet had still not issued a decision of infringement.
The public statement from Demirtas’ lawyers included the issues put forth in the petition written by human rights advocate, Dr. Kerem Altiparmak, and Dr. Basak Cali, a professor of international law.
Lawyers argued that the ruling of the respective Chamber of the ECHR created several fundamental problems regarding the interpretation and implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Infringement on freedom of expression
One of these problems, lawyers argued, was the abstention of the Chamber from ruling on the infringement on the rights of the imprisoned leader’s freedom of expression. This decision lead to the lowering of standards regarding the convention on human rights, they contended, which caused an incomplete ruling.
Another problem brought up in the petition inscribed by Demirtas’ legal counsel, was the respective Chamber’s refusal to rule on the constitutional amendment that saw the removal of parliamentary immunities of Turkey’s lawmakers, retrospectively, which restricted this sole occasion in an unprecedented fashion.
The legal counsel also underlined the fact that none of the MPs from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who have had their parliamentary immunities revoked, were actually prosecuted in the aftermath of the amendment. “Therefore, the court’s abstention from ruling on the decision of Turkey’s Supreme Court, which only examined the amendment’s procedural aspects rather than the essential aspects, renders the constitutional amendment enforced without any checks on it,” they claimed.
Lining up these issues as fundamental problems, the lawyers of the former HDP leader demanded a revision of decision from the ECHR’s Grand Chamber.
Criticism of Erdogan’s authoritarian drive
Demirtas had stirred the base of HDP during his time as co-chair, with his staunch criticism against the increasing authoritarian drive of President Erdogan. He was imprisoned three months after the declaration of a state of emergency in Turkey, as part of measures taken after the failed coup of July 2016, which gave the executive branch sweeping powers via emergency decrees.
Dermitas ran a presidential campaign from his prison cell in the 2018 general elections, despite calls for his release from the opposition for a fair race.
The prosecution seeks a sentence of up to 147 years in prison on the various charge, mostly allegations of terrorist links.