ECtHR: Lifting immunities of Demirtaş and HDP deputies violated freedom of expression

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that the lift of legislative immunities of 40 MPs of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) violated their freedom of expression.

The MPs include the party’s former co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been in prison since November 2016, shortly after the lift of immunity.

The ECtHR gave a similar verdict in a previous application by Demirtaş and HDP deputy Filiz Kerestecioğlu, which it also cited in today’s (February 1) ruling.

The European court ordered Turkey to pay a compensation of 5,000 Euro to each applicant and cover their application costs.

All of the MPs should be released after the court’s judgment, according to Ramazan Demir, an attorney who represented Demirtaş at the ECtHR. Also, closed cases should be retried and ongoing cases should be dropped, he wrote on Twitter.

“This was the final curtain for the crimes committed against the Kurdish political movement by violating the constitution, in which the opposition eagerly took part,” he wrote.

In May 2016, the parliament passed an amendment to the Constitution enabling the parliament to lift the legislative immunity of MPs who have criminal investigations against them. The main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) support for the amendment ensured the required two-thirds majority to amend the Constitution.

After three and a half months, several HDP deputies, including the co-chairs Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ, were arrested on “terrorism-related” charges.

Mahsuni Karaman, another attorney of Demirtaş, said in a Twitter post that MPs can’t be held in custody, interrogated, arrested or tried, citing article 83/2 of the Constitution.

These were done to the HDP deputies and the ECtHR ruling showed all of them were “null and void,” said Karaman.

Sancar: All MPs should be released

Speaking at hie party’s parlimentary group meeting later, HDP Co-Chair Mithat Sancar also said all cases against HDP deputies should be dropped and the arrested politicians should be released.

“The ECtHR once again said that the lift of immunities in 2006 was political discrimination, a political purge operation and had nothing to do with the law,” he remarked.

“The government constantly violates the Constitution,” Sancar said, adding that Turkey has to comply with ECtHR decisions according to article 80 of the Constitution.

Trial of Selahattin DemirtaşSelahattin Demirtaş was detained on November 4, 2016. He was arrested and sent to Silivri Prison in İstanbul on the same day. He is still behind bars in Silivri.All his investigations, except for one, have been combined in a single file. The lawsuit filed at the Ankara 19th Heavy Penal Court has still not been concluded. As his request for release as part of this suit was rejected, his attorneys appealed to the Constitutional Court.In their application to the Constitutional Court on May 29, 2018, the attorneys requested that his application be reviewed with priority. However, the Court has not yet responded to the application. On June 26, 2018, his case was taken to the ECtHR.Shortly after this appeal to the ECtHR, the court announced its judgment in his second case. Tried in the case together with former HDP MP Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Selahattin Demirtaş has been sentenced to 4 years, 8 months in prison on the charge of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” by the İstanbul 26th Heavy Penal Court.One month later, on October 25, 2018, his verdict of conviction reached the 2nd Penal Chamber of İstanbul Regional Court of Justice, the court of appeal.On November 17, 2018, the ECtHR announced that it would announce its judgment as to his application on November 20. The court of appeal swiftly reviewed the verdict of conviction of Demirtaş and started discussing it on November 19.On November 20, 2018, the ECtHR concluded that Demirtaş was “arrested with political motivations” and ruled for his release.The Ankara 19th Heavy Penal Court rejected his request for release on November 30, 2018, indicating that “his arrest was a moderate measure”.On December 4, 2018, the 2nd Penal Chamber of İstanbul Regional Court of Justice upheld his verdict of conviction. With this verdict, Demirtaş became an arrested convict.The attorneys of Demirtaş appealed again to the ECtHR on February 19, 2019, and requested that the issues not discussed, found inadmissible and not regarded as violation right be reviewed again.The government also appealed against the ECtHR verdict on Demirtaş. In its petition, the government also requested that the ECtHR review its ruling of right violation again. That being the case, the case of Demirtaş has been taken to the ECtHR Grand Chamber, which announced that it would discuss the application on September 18, 2019.The Ankara 19th Heavy Penal Court on September 2 ruled that Demirtaş should be released. His imprisonment continued because of a separate verdict for hs arrest.On December 22, 2020, the ECtHR Grand Chamber ruled for the immediate release of Demirtaş.On September 17, 2021, The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the ECtHR rulings, stated that Demirtaş should be released and gave time to Turkey until September 30 to announce an action plan about the European court ruling.