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article imageTurkey defies rights court ruling on jailed Kurdish politician

By AFP     Nov 30, 2018 in World

A Turkish court on Friday rejected a request to free a jailed top Kurdish politician after over two years behind bars, defying a European rights court ruling that his detention was politically motivated.

The Ankara court dismissed the petition by defence lawyers of Selahattin Demirtas, the former co-leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), ignoring the November 20 ruling by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The ECHR ruled Demirtas' imprisonment had been aimed at "stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate", calling for his release from the pre-trial detention.

Demirtas rose to prominence with a charismatic performance in 2014 elections won by now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Demirtas ran again in the last elections in June 2018 from his prison cell.

Analysts see the politician as one of the few figures in Turkey who can match Erdogan's rhetoric and potentially become a dangerous rival for the president.

- 'Violation of constitution' -

Erdogan had rejected the November 20 ruling from the European court saying "the decisions delivered by the ECHR do not bind us."

The HDP said in a statement that the Ankara court's latest decision was taken for "political reasons" and under "pressure from President Erdogan and the executive".

"This is clearly a violation of the constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights," its co-leaders Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli said in a statement.

Turkey's apparent defiance of the ruling is likely to add to tensions between Ankara and the Council of Europe, the pan-European rights body that oversees the ECHR and of which Turkey has been a member since 1950.

The rulings of the ECHR, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, of which Turkey is a signatory, are binding on member states.

"Under Article 46 of the convention, all member states are bound by the rulings of the court," a spokesman for the 47-nation council said after the ECHR ruling was issued.

In February, the council's chief Thorbjorn Jagland warned Turkey against "casting the net too widely" in a mass crackdown that followed a failed 2016 coup, saying it had resulted in a backlog of rights complaints at the ECHR.

Demirtas faces up to 142 years in jail if convicted of other charges relating to alleged links to Kurdish militants. He was in September sentenced to four years and eight months for disseminating "terror" propaganda.

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