Wife of jailed Kurdish leader hails release ruling, demands Turkish reforms

December 24, 2020

ANKARA (Reuters) – The wife of detained Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas said on Thursday she expected Turkey to comply with a call from Europe’s top rights court to free him, but that the country’s overall legal system still needed to be fixed.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday that Selahattin Demirtas, former leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), must be freed immediately.

The court said Turkey’s justification for his detention longer than four years on terrorism-related offences was a pretext for limiting political debate – a ruling dismissed by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

“The issue is not only about Selahattin. The whole judicial system needs to be fixed,” Basak Demirtas told Reuters.

“I expect Selahattin to be released of course because Turkey is one of the signatory countries to the European Convention on Human Rights. Furthermore, it is one of the founding members of the ECHR,” she said.

Turkey’s constitution now required it to abide by the court ruling, but more needed to be done, she added.

“We knew both Selahattin and his friends have been kept in jail unlawfully, unjustly. It made us happy that the ECHR made this official.”

Opposition members and rights groups have accused the government of pressing the judiciary to silence Erdogan’s opponents, particularly since an attempted coup in July 2016.

Erdogan and his ruling AK party have regularly denied such charges and said courts make independent decisions.

Demirtas faces a sentence of up to 142 years in prison if convicted of being the leader of a terrorist organisation over his speeches during protests in 2014 that turned violent and led to 37 deaths. He denies any wrongdoing.

Ankara accuses the HDP of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has waged an insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984 and is deemed a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

The HDP, the third-largest in Turkey’s parliament, denies links to terrorism, yet has seen thousands of its officials and members arrested in recent years, mainly on terrorism charges.

Basak Demirtas said she persevered despite difficult times during her husband’s detention such as when he had heart problems, when she had an car accident on the way to see him and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People can stay strong as long as they fight for what they believe in,” she said.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen’ Editing by Andrew Heavens)

The post Wife of jailed Kurdish leader hails release ruling, demands Turkish reforms first appeared on One America News Network.

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Wear a different chain – Turkey locks up Kurdish mayors | Europe

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Australian families at al-Hawl camp moved by Kurdish authorities

Kurdish authorities in north-eastern Syria have removed a large group of Australian women and children from a prison camp for families of Islamic State fighters.

They were the last Australians remaining in the al-Hawl camp, after several families were taken in a midnight raid last week.

Among them was the daughter of Sydney man Kamalle Dabboussy, who heard Kurdish authorities moved her this week after 18 months of being held in al-Hawl.

“My daughter was taken, my grandchildren have been taken,” he told the ABC’s AM program.

“I’m anxious, I’m worried.”

The al-Hawl camp, which is crowded and squalid, holds family members of Islamic State fighters and other people displaced by the fight against the terrorist group.

The Syrian Kurdish authorities controlling al-Hawl have said they are moving around 50 Australians to the smaller al-Roj camp where, it’s claimed, there is more of a focus on re-education and rehabilitation.

Kamalle Dabboussy with his daughter Mariam Dabboussy and her children in the al-Hawl camp in Syria.(ABC News: Dave Maguire)

Mr Dabboussy said he was hopeful at reports that conditions were better at al-Roj, but he remained worried there is still no plan for the families to leave Syria.

“What we hear is that there is some better medical facilities, there’s cleaner water, there’s better security.

“One assumes that it’s probably better to be in al-Roj than al-Hawl but this is a degree; al-Hawl is one of the most dangerous places on the planet for children.”

New security arrangements at al-Roj mean that mobile phones will be banned and Mr Dabboussy said he will not be able to contact his family.

“My ability to speak to my grandchildren, just tell them there’s a grandfather here in Australia that cares and loves them, is gone.”

“The ability for those kids to hear their aunties voices and occasionally their grandmother’s voice is gone, we’ve lost that connection.”

Australian government monitoring the situation but still no solution

The Australian Government says it is monitoring the situation and working with humanitarian groups, which provide aid to the camps.

Two boys hold a water container looking over the camp.
Save The Children wants Australian children held in north eastern Syria to be repatriated.(ABC News: Dave Maguire)

Save The Children Australia’s director of policy and international programs Matt Tinkler said he hopes the Government does more to secure the return of children in north eastern Syria.

“These are really desperate conditions and these Australian children are innocent, they deserve to be brought home to Australia.”

“There’s really no practical or serious barrier to bringing them home now, it just needs the political will from the Australian Government.”

Many of the Australian prisoners only have Australian citizenship, or the right to it, and Syrian Kurdish authorities have long said they cannot hold people forever.

The Government fears bringing radicalised women and children back in to the country, but experts who have worked with the families have told the ABC those risks will only increase the longer that people remain in Syria.

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Turkish jets strike Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish warplanes struck Kurdish militant targets in various regions of northern Iraq on Sunday night in response to an increase in militant attacks on Turkish army bases, the Defence Ministry said.

“The Claw-Eagle Operation has started. Our planes are bringing the caves down on the terrorists’ heads,” the Turkish Defence Ministry said on Twitter.

Turkey regularly targets Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, both in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast and in northern Iraq, where the group is based.

A security source told Reuters the warplanes took off from various air bases in Turkey, notably in the southeastern cities of Diyarbakir and Malatya.

The defence ministry subsequently said the air operation targeted the PKK in the region of its stronghold at Qandil, near the Iranian border, as well as the areas of Sinjar, Zap, Avasin-Basyan and Hakurk.

“The PKK and other terrorist elements are threatening the security of our people and borders with attacks increasing every day on the areas of our outposts and bases,” it said.

The PKK, designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, focused in southeast Turkey.

While Turkish warplanes frequently target PKK targets in northern Iraq, Turkey has also warned in recent years of a potential ground offensive targeting the PKK bases in the Qandil mountains.

Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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