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Erdogan rejects European court’s ‘non-binding’ ruling over Kurdish leader


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference at the Presidential Complex in Ankara where he announced the upcoming electoral timetable on April 18, 2018.<br />President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called snap elections in Turkey for June 24, bringing the polls forward by over a year-and-a-half to sharply accelerate the transition to a new presidential system. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday rejected a European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas should be released, saying Turkey was not bound by the court’s decisions.

Demirtas, a former co-chief of the leftist pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has been imprisoned since November 2016 over alleged links to Kurdish militants.

“The decisions delivered by the ECHR do not bind us,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency after a meeting of his ruling party.

“We will make our counter-attack and get this business over with,” the president added, without elaborating.

The Strasbourg-based ECHR enforces the European Convention on Human Rights and is a body of the Council of Europe (CoE), of which Turkey has been a member since 1950.

After Erdogan spoke, a CoE spokesman said: “Under article Article 46 of the Convention all member states are bound by the rulings of the Court.”

The ECHR earlier on Tuesday said while it accepted that Demirtas had been arrested on “reasonable suspicion” of committing a crime, the court criticised the reasons for keeping him in jail.

The extension of his detention — through an April 2017 referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers and June 2018 presidential polls where Demirtas ran as a candidate — was aimed at “stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate”, it said.

At the time of his arrest, Demirtas, 45, was a member of parliament.

“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 added.

Turkey was ordered to pay Demirtas 10,000 euros ($11,492) in damages and 15,000 euros towards his legal costs.

The HDP is repeatedly accused by Ankara of being the political front of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the second main opposition party denies.

The PKK is proscribed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

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

Demirtas and the HDP have repeatedly denied the charges against him, insisting that he is a target because of his opposition to Erdogan.

The CoE’s chief Thorbjorn Jagland in February warned Turkey over “casting the net too widely” in the mass crackdown that followed the 2016 failed coup, saying the situation had resulted in a backlog of cases at the ECHR.

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan
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