ANKARA — In a statement released on Thursday, Human Rights Watch called on Turkey to release Kurdish politician, former presidential candidate, and former Co-Chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi, HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş who has been a political prisoner since 2016.
The statement indicated that the arrest of Demirtaş and eight other HDP representatives marked the beginning of a continuous Turkish government attack on the party and noted that Turkey’s continued detention of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political opponents is a reminder that the judicial branch of the country is no longer independent.
Demirtaş has been in pre-trial detention since November 2016 on terrorism-related charges after delivering speeches critical of Erdogan’s authoritarian rule.
In August 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Demirtaş’s detention was illegal and that he should be released from custody immediately. Some Turkish courts ordered Demirtaş’s conditional release following the ECHR ruling, however, he still remains in prison.