Former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtas must be released as a pre-condition of any trade deal signed between Britain and Turkey, Peace in Kurdistan said in a statement.
The British-based Peace in Kurdistan campaign group urged Trade Secretary Liz Truss to hold Turkey to account for what it described as “flagrant human rights violations” ahead of Tuesday’s post-Brexit agreement on future trade arrangements.
PIK urged Britain to ensure that Ankara sticks to its obligations and commitments as a member of NATO and the Council of Europe.
“This means it must abide by last week’s binding decision from the European Court of Human Rights which ruled that former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtas continued detention is unlawful and politically motivated.
“Liz Truss must ensure that Turkey adheres to the court's judgment that Mr Demirtas must be immediately released from prison as a precondition for signing any trade deal.,” added the statement.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed the court ruling insisting that Mr Demirtas is a terrorist and that the decision does not have any relevance.
But PIK warned Ms Truss that a failure to press Turkey to release the Kurdish politician will send the message that Turkey can continue to trample on the basic norms of democracy with impunity and runs the risk of giving Mr Erdogan the green light to escalate the oppression of a legal political party.
Last week the HDP revealed the scale of the oppression on the party, with some 20,000 members and supporters detained since 2016. Of those 10,000 have been jailed including more than 200 elected officials and at least 7 MPs.
Leyla Guven became the latest high-profile HDP figure to be jailed last week as the former MP for Hakkri was sentenced to 22 years and three months on trumped-up terrorism charges.
More worryingly the HDP itself is at risk of being closed after the passage of a controversial law on Sunday which allows the government to take control of and even close non-governmental organisations, charities and political organisations “associated with terrorism.”
But the campaign group warned that trade and profit should not be prioritised over human rights and democracy reminding Ms Truss that Turkey is currently waging a genocide against Kurds allied with jihadists and has been accused of war crimes and the use of chemical weapons in Rojava, northern Syria.
“PIK believes that the only solution to the problems facing the Middle East is the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question,” the statement said.
“Central to this is jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan whose freedom is an essential step in the process of peace-building between Turkey and the Kurds. He must be at the negotiating table in order to bring this historical conflict to a conclusion.
“PIK urges Britain to use the current trade negotiations to pressure Turkey to take appropriate steps to bring an end to war and conflict and help build a future based on peace, unity and cooperation.”