For the Turkish presidential election in the summer, in which Selahattin Demirtaş ran from prison, the verdict is indeed too late – it is all the more obvious. The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Turkey to release the co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish party HDP from its more than two-year pre-trial detention and pay him EUR 25 000 in compensation and reimbursement.
Above all, the court has once again resorted to the harshest weapon by explicitly stating the „hidden agenda“ behind the arrest: with the continuation of detention in the election campaign and during the 2017 constitutional referendum, Turkey has aimed „to stifle pluralism and to limit the freedom of political debate „. That touches the core of democracy.
The agenda of the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does not really seem „hidden“. However, this is an unusual step for the Court, which usually complains of individual infringements but does not draw a political panorama. In Demirtaş he complains of a violation of freedom of choice and a procedural violation. At the same time, he refers to Article 18 of the Convention on Human Rights, which makes it possible to make the misuse of criminal investigations visible for political purposes. An article that has been used by the Strasbourg judges since November 2017, as it did a few days ago in the judgment in favor of the Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
In the case of Demirtaş, the Court describes the tense political climate since 2014, which, according to the Commissioner for Human Rights, could affect the judgments of Turkish courts. He quotes statements such as that of Erdoğan in July 2015, according to which the HDP politicians „have to pay the price“. And he points to the many arrests of HDP MPs „for their political speeches“. The sum that the court draws from it: Demirtaş is a victim of political persecution.
For President Erdoğan, the judgment is not binding. It refers to his threats
Erdoğan called the decision of the court on Tuesday „not binding“ for Turkey. „We make a counter-move and finish the case,“ he said, according to the state agency Anadolu. What he meant by Erdoğan left in the dark. Since 1950, Turkey has been a member of the Council of Europe, whose members generally have to comply with the judgments of the European Court of Justice. However, the verdict is not yet final. Both sides can apply for referral to the Grand Chamber of the Court within three months. A dissenting opinion among the seven judges was expressed by the Turkish woman Işıl Karakaş. She did not see enough evidence that Turkey was pursuing political intentions with her detention.
Rebecca Harms, Green Party member of the European Parliament, said she was „thrilled“ for Demirtaş over this „much desired and long overdue verdict“. EU Commission Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn should demand immediate implementation of the verdict on Thursday during their visit to Ankara, said Harms.
There will soon be another ruling by the Court concerning Ankara. It is about more than one year pre-trial detention for the cultural patron Osman Kavala.