Erdogan says European court’s ruling on jailed politician ‘hypocritical’

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that a call by the European Court of Human Rights for the release of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas was hypocritical and only Turkish courts can rule on his case.

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The Grand Chamber of the ECHR ruled on Tuesday that Turkey must immediately release Demirtas, the former leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who has been jailed for more than four years on terrorism-related offenses. It said justification for his detention was cover for limiting pluralism and political debate.

Lawyers for Demirtas called the ruling “historic” and Western allies urged Ankara to act. But while such rulings are legally binding, Turkey has not implemented them in several past instances, including a previous chamber ruling on Demirtas’ case.

Speaking to members of his ruling AK Party, Erdogan said the court was defending a “terrorist” and repeated his view that Demirtas is responsible for the deaths of dozens in 2014 protests that are at the heart of the charges against him.

“If the ECHR wants to be respected by Turkey, its needs to question its own contradictions,” he said. “The discussion concerns a person wearing a politician’s mask who is intimate with the PKK and with the blood of tens of people on his hands.”

The president said Demirtas was guilty according to Turks for not being able to distance himself from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

Erdogan said the court held a “double-standard” and its “hypocritical” ruling on Demirtas contradicted a verdict related to the Batasuna party in Spain.

In 2009, the ECHR did not find any rights violation in the application related to Batasuna’s closure and declaration as illegal.

Ankara accuses HDP of links to the PKK; the party denies links to terrorism.

Demirtas faces a sentence of up to 142 years in prison if convicted of being the leader of a terrorist organization over his speeches during the 2014 protests that turned violent and led to the deaths of 37 people. He denies any wrongdoing.

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