Rights court condemns Turkey over opposition mayor’s detention

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The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday condemned Turkey for detaining an opposition mayor for over two years without a trial, the latest in a string of rulings against Ankara over the imprisonment of political figures, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Strasbourg-based tribunal said the removal from office of Tuncer Bakırhan, a veteran pro-Kurdish activist, just after his March 2014 election as mayor of Siirt was “manifestly disproportionate” and a violation of his liberty and free speech.

Bakırhan, a member of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), was accused of belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly war against Turkey since 1984.

He was jailed for two years, eight months before appearing in court, and in October 2019 was handed a 10-year prison sentence. Bakırhan brought the application against Turkey over his pre-trial detention before the European court.

“Detaining the applicant, an elected representative of the people, for such a period on account of his political activities constituted an interference that was manifestly disproportionate to the legitimate aims pursued,” the ECtHR said.

His jailing “had not been necessary in a democratic society,” it added, without commenting on his conviction and prison sentence.

The court ordered Turkey to pay Bakırhan 10,000 euros ($11,800) in damages plus 3,000 euros for expenses.

Turkey’s hard-line President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed to stamp out the PKK militants who maintain bases in the rugged mountains across the border in Iraq.

His government has dissolved several opposition parties with alleged links to the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara as well as the United States and the EU.

The ECtHR, set up in 1959, deals with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, which Ankara ratified in 1954.

The court handed down 97 judgments concerning Turkey last year, of which 85 determined there had been at least one violation of the rights convention.

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