ECtHR has let Turkey’s dissidents down, says jailed Kurdish leader

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In this handout photo provided by the pro-Kurdish Peoples's Democratic Party (HDP), former party leader Selahattin Demirtas sits in prison in Edirne on May 4, 2018. Demirtaş has been behind bars since November 2016, is in prison accused of links to outlawed Kurdish rebels and is facing a 142-year sentence. / AFP PHOTO / Kurdish Peoples's Democratic Party (HDP) / HANDOUT

Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed ex-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has said the ineptness of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in preventing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from abusing the country’s courts had left him and thousands of others languishing in jail, Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

Demirtaş was arrested over links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in November 2016 and has been in prison ever since.

Speaking to Laura Pitel from Financial Times, Demirtaş said despite the warnings from acclaimed watchdogs pointing to the sway held by the executive branch over Turkey’s judiciary, the ECtHR had made him and other high-profile detainees wait for years to have their cases heard.

The ECtHR on Nov. 20, 2018 ruled that Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention had violated the European Convention on Human Rights, calling for his release.

Erdoğan said in his response to the decision that the European court’s rulings did not bind Turkey.

Following Erdoğan’s remarks, local courts rejected several applications for Demirtaş’s release filed by his lawyers.

“The European Court of Human Rights takes a long time to make decisions and, in the end, even if they rule that there has been a violation [of human rights], it doesn’t produce any practical results,” the Financial Times quoted Demirtaş as saying.

A court in 2018 convicted the Kurdish leader of disseminating terrorist propaganda, and along with several other terrorism-related charges, he faces a sentence of 142 years in prison.

ECtHR President Róbert Ragnar Spanó had paid a two-day visit to Turkey on Sept. 3, becoming the first president of the rights court to pay an official visit to Turkey, the government of which is a party to more than 16 percent of the cases before the Strasbourg court.

Spanó met with Erdoğan at the presidential palace, drawing backlash from critics.

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