Turkish President and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said a decision made by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on Tuesday calling for the immediate release of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş was an act of hypocrisy by the court, which he said cannot make rulings on behalf of Turkish courts.
The Turkish president claimed the rights court made an exceptional move and rendered its ruling before the exhaustion of domestic remedies.
The Strasbourg-based court found Turkey guilty of violating the rights of Demirtaş, who has been in jail since November 2016, on five counts including violation of the rights to freedom of expression, liberty and security and free elections as well as limitations on the use of restrictions on rights.
“Basically, the European Court of Human Rights cannot make rulings to replace the verdicts of our own courts. Its decision can only be taken into consideration by our courts,” said Erdoğan.
According to Erdoğan, the rights court’s ruling on Demirtaş explicitly contradicts its decision on the Batasuna (Basque Party) in Spain, which was affiliated with the militant group ETA. In June 2009 the court supported the illegalization of the Batasuna on the basis that its activities were part of the strategy of the terrorist ETA, stating that its illegalization by Spain could be justified as necessary in a democratic society in pursuit of the legitimate aim of preventing terrorism.
Erdoğan, who claimed that the court at the time found the failure to condemn acts of violence by a terrorist organization tantamount to supporting terrorism, said it was now an act of hypocrisy on the part of the court to call for the release of the “mastermind” of incidents that resulted in the deaths of 39 people on Oct. 6-8, 2014.
He was referring to demonstrations in Turkey’s Southeast after Demirtaş called for street protests in support of Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Kobani while accusing Ankara of failing to provide adequate help to Kobani and of supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which had laid siege to the town.
The protests later morphed into fierce clashes between pro and anti-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) groups in which 53 people were killed.
Since then, Erdoğan and his AKP government have held Demirtaş responsible for the deaths of these people.
“I want it known that we have no obligation to tolerate double standards and hypocrisy,” added Erdoğan.
The court’s Tuesday ruling was made by its Grand Chamber following appeals from both Turkey and Demirtaş to the court’s original ruling in November 2018.
Demirtaş, who was the co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) when he was arrested in November 2016, has been behind bars since then despite a decision from the ECtHR in November 2018 that ruled Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was a political act and called for his release. Turkish courts refused to implement the European court’s ruling, and a regional appeals court in Turkey subsequently upheld a prison sentence given to Demirtaş for disseminating terrorist propaganda.
The court also ordered Turkey to pay Demirtaş 3,500 euros in pecuniary damages, 25,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 31,900 euros in costs and expenses.
Demirtaş was an outspoken critic of Erdoğan before he was jailed. He ran in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan. Demirtaş conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.
Erdoğan has accused of Demirtaş of being a “terrorist” due to his alleged links to the PKK and has slammed calls for his release.