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‘Selahattin Demirtaş must be released now’: rapporteurs urge the Turkish authorities to implement the Court’s final judgment

“Selahattin Demirtaş must be freed from prison - and free to exercise his political rights in a democratic society again without further delay”, said the PACE rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden, SOC) and John Howell (United Kingdom, EC/DA), and Boriss Cilevičs (Latvia, SOC), rapporteur on "Should politicians be prosecuted for statements made in the exercise of their mandate ?", in reaction to the decision of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) of 22 December 2020 ordering the immediate release of the former leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Thomas Hammarberg and John Howell, who have recently presented a report on “New crackdown on political opposition and civil dissent in Turkey”, recalled that Mr Demirtaş has been held in prison for over four years. “Our Assembly has repeatedly underscored that the place of deputies is in parliament, not in prison. The Court’s final ruling confirmed that Mr Demirtaş’ initial and continued pre-trial detention significantly reduced the scope of free democratic debate. It unanimously ruled that Mr Demirtaş’ right to free elections had been violated while confirming that his pre-trial detention ultimately sought to stifle pluralism and limit freedom of political debate, in violation of article 18 of the Convention, which was “a matter of indisputable gravity for democracy”. This course of action must be reversed “, they said.

Boriss Cilevičs also welcomed the Grand Chamber judgment. "The Court thankfully upheld the principle that criminal law must not be abused to prevent politicians from peacefully exercising their mandates, even if their political activities challenge those currently in power."

“The immediate release of Selahattin Demirtaş would therefore be a strong and meaningful signal of Turkey’s willingness to abide by the judgments of the Strasbourg Court and its genuine commitment to fundamental values underlying its membership to the Council of Europe”, the rapporteurs concluded.