Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Top court: Selahattin Demirtaş’s detention violated his right to liberty

Top court: Selahattin Demirtaş’s detention violated his right to liberty

Despite the top court's judgment and the trial court’s release order in September 2019, Demirtaş remains behind bars due to his rearrest as part of another investigation

 

The First Section of the Constitutional Court ruled in a unanimous decision that the pre-trial detention of Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), violated his right to security and liberty.

In its judgment published on 19 June 2020 in the Official Gazette, the Constitutional Court ordered that Demirtaş, who has been jailed since November 2016, be paid TL 50,000 in compensation.

Reviewing the claims in five different applications lodged on behalf of Demirtaş in 2017 and 2018, the court ruled that Demirtaş’s right to liberty and security, enshrined in Article 19 of the Turkish Constitution, was violated because his pre-trial detention exceeded the reasonable period of detention.

The top court reasoned that in decisions for Demirtaş’s continued detention and in reviews of objections to these decisions, judges failed to take into consideration claims that in addition to his right to liberty and security, Demirtaş’s right to be elected and to engage in political activity were also being violated.

However, the top court wrote that the current judgment only concerned Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention that came to an end on 2 September 2019, when the 19th High Criminal Court of Ankara ruled for his release, and that claims concerning his ongoing detention would be reviewed as part of a separate application filed against Demirtaş’s rearrest by a decision of the Ankara 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace.

The top court found claims in Demirtaş’s application asserting that his right to liberty and security was violated on the grounds that “regular reviews of his detention were not conducted,” “requests for his release and objections against his detention were not ruled on” and “his detention exceeded the legal maximum” to be inadmissible.

The full text of the Constitutional Court’s 9 June 2020 judgment, in Turkish, can be accessed here.

Demirtaş was taken into custody on 4 November 2016 on allegations of “establishing a criminal organization,” “membership of a terrorist organization,” “membership of an armed terrorist organization” and “committing crimes on behalf of a criminal organization” and jailed pending trial the same day by a Criminal Judgeship of Peace on duty.

Demirtaş is accused on account of his remarks in HDP’s public statements, rallies, speeches he delivered during public gatherings organized by various institutions, and during his speeches at the Parliament. Some 33 separate cases against Demirtaş in various courts across Turkey were merged with the main case against him, overseen by the 19th High Criminal Court of Ankara.

In the meantime, on 7 September 2018, the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul sentenced Demirtaş to 4 years and 8 months in prison for “disseminating terrorism propaganda” over his remarks during a speech he delivered at the 2013 Newroz celebration in Istanbul.

Ruling on Demirtaş’s application on 21 November 2018, the European Court of Human Rights held that his lengthy pre-trial detention was politically motivated and called on Turkey to take all necessary measures to put an end to his pre-trial detention.

However, soon after the European Court’s ruling, on 4 December 2018, a regional court of justice upheld Demirtaş’s 4-year and 8-month sentence for “disseminating terrorism propaganda.” Since Demirtaş’s sentence was less than five years, his conviction became final with the regional court of appeals judgment and the ECtHR’s judgment was thus bypassed.

On 2 September 2019, the 19th High Criminal Court of Ankara ruled for Demirtaş’s release in the main trial, however, Demirtaş was not released since his conviction in the Istanbul case had been upheld.

Soon after this ruling, on 20 September 2019, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office requested the re-arrest of Demirtaş, citing allegations in connection with 2014’s Kobani protests from a different case file that had been merged with the main trial. Demirtaş was subsequently re-arrested on 20 September 2019 by Ankara’s 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace.

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