ECHR holds Grand Chamber meeting in case of jailed pro-Kurdish leader Demirtaş

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Wednesday held a Grand Chamber meeting in the case of jailed pro-Kurish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Selahattin Demirtaş. 

The ECHR Grand Chamber’s seventeen judges are now expected to take a decision that is likely to be announced in coming months.

The decision is expected to be in line with the court’s Nov. 2018 ruling, which urged Turkey to swiftly process the pro-Kurdish leader’s legal case, saying his pre-trial detention had gone on longer than could be justified.

The former HDP co-chair Demirtaş was arrested on Nov. 4, 2016, along with 12 other HDP parliamentary deputies, and is accused of links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed militant group that has fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for over three decades.

Lawyers Başak Çalı, Kerem Altıparmak, Mahsuni Karaman, Benan Molu, Ramazan Demir and Aygül Demirtaş represented Demirtaş on Wednesday, pro-Kurdish Fırat News Agency reported.

The defence submitted by Demirtaş’s lawyers highlighted the role played by Demirtaş in the peace talks between PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and Turkish state officials, which collapsed in 2015, ending a two-year ceasefire in a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people. 

The lawyers said a political coup was staged against the HDP on Nov. 4, 2016 in violation of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Thousands of HDP members and administrators remain in prisons in Turkey over terrorist propaganda charges, which have led to convictions in the ECHR for Turkey on grounds of freedom of speech violations.

“The Diyarbakır Court put forth nine justifications concerning, all of which were related to the speeches he had made as the co-chair of the second biggest opposition party in Turkey. An opposition leader’s political speeches were put forward as the base for the arrest warrant,” it said.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker and lawyer Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Demirtaş wife Başak Demirtaş, as well as 20 members of the European Parliament from the Socialists and Greens groups were among those in attendance during Wednesday’s hearing.

Tanrıkulu said that the Grand Chamber’s ruling may take anywhere between two to four months.   

“The chairman of the court has stated that a meeting will be held with judges and a decision would be announced at a later date,’’ Tanrıkulu said, underlining the political significance of the case.

"The hearing we just witnessed was important in terms of exposing the great lawlessness and misfortune taking place in Turkey,’’ Tanrıkulu said after the hearing."

Altıparmak, a law professor at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, said that the case had effectively transformed into a symbol of Turkey’s struggle for democracy and the state of law. 

"Our request from the ECHR is for the evaluation of the case taking into account the technical and legal process inherent in it. This is a case whose significance concerns Turkey and Europe,’’ Altıparmak said.