European court rules Turkey violated pro-Kurdish politician’s right to speedy trial

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The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that Turkey violated the right to a speedy trial for the former head of the pro-Kurdish opposition, Selahattin Demirtas.

Demirtas, one of Turkey’s best known politicians, was sentenced in September to more than four years in jail on terrorism charges, after having spent nearly two years jailed while on trial.

“The Court found that the judicial authorities had extended Mr Demirtas’ detention on grounds that could not be regarded as ‘sufficient’ to justify its duration,” the Strasbourg-based court said in a statement.

The court also criticised Turkish authorities for keeping Demirtas detained during two political elections: a referendum last year on changing the constitution and moving to an executive presidency, and this year’s presidential election.

“The extensions of Mr Demirtas’ detention, especially during two crucial campaigns… pursued the predominant ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate,” it said.

The court, which awarded him 10,000 euro in damages and a further 15,000 euro in costs, ruled against a number of his other complaints and accepted that he had been arrested and detained on “reasonable suspicion” of having committed a criminal offence.

The government accuses the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. The HDP denies this.

“The Court therefore held, unanimously, that the respondent State was to take all necessary measures to put an end to the applicant’s pre-trial detention,” it said.

Two months ago a court sentenced Demirtas to more than four years in jail on terrorism charges related to a speech he gave in 2013. He faces several other terrorism-related charges and a total of 142 years in prison if convicted.

ISTANBUL (Reuters)

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