Erdogan attacks Europe court's order for Demirtas's release

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Demirtas has been held in detention since 2016 and challenged Mr Erdogan for the presidency while behind bars

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has condemned an order by the European Court of Human Rights to free a jailed Kurdish political leader.

Selahattin Demirtas's imprisonment on terror charges violated five articles of the human rights convention, the court said.

Mr Erdogan said the ruling was hypocritical and "entirely political".

The court has revealed its website was hacked and went down after Tuesday's ruling.

Who is Demirtas?

Detained in 2016, Selahattin Demirtas was then jailed in September 2018 for four years and eight months for making and "spreading terrorist propaganda" for militants fighting the Turkish state. He denies the charges.

He came third in the June 2018 presidential elections after conducting his vote campaign from behind bars.

Media caption,
In 2018 Selahattin Demirtas ran for the presidency from a Turkish jail

Demirtas was co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which in 2015 became the first pro-Kurdish party to enter Turkey's parliament by surpassing the required 10% of the vote.

As joint leader of the left-wing party, Demirtas played a key role in extending its reach beyond Kurdish voters and attracting mainstream voters in western Turkey.

But after a ceasefire broke down in 2015 between Turkey and the militant PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party], there was spate of attacks and Demirtas and several colleagues were then charged with links to the outlawed group.

What the European rights court said

In its ruling, the European Court of Human Rights found that by detaining Demirtas Turkey had "pursued the ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate". It found no clear link between his speeches and terrorism offences and ruled that Turkey should take immediate measures to release him.

His pre-trial detention, it said, had deprived voters of representation in parliament and sent "a dangerous message" to the entire population.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Mr Erdogan condemned the ECHR ruling as entirely political

Turkey's justification for his pre-trial detention had "merely been cover for an ulterior political purpose, which was a matter of indisputable gravity for democracy", it added. Demirtas's lawyers praised the rights court's ruling as historic.

What Erdogan said

In a speech to his AK party in parliament, the Turkish president said the ECHR had defended a "terrorist" and only Turkish courts could rule on the Demirtas case. Demirtas had failed to distance himself from terror groups responsible for killing dozens, he added.

In a further statement on Wednesday, the rights court said that following the judgement the ECHR website had gone down from Tuesday evening until Wednesday morning because of a "large-scale cyber-attack". By mid-morning on Wednesday the site was up and running again.

Meanwhile, in a separate Turkish court verdict on Wednesday, exiled journalist Can Dundar was given a 27-year jail term in absentia for aiding a terrorist organisation and espionage. Dundar now lives in Germany and his lawyers have condemned the verdict as political.

Since Turkey's failed coup in 2016, authorities have been accused of clamping down on press freedom and shutting down critical news outlets.