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Release Political Prisoners, Council of Europe Urges Turkey

The Council of Europe’s governing body, the Committee of Ministers, urged Turkey on Thursday to release imprisoned philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala and Kurdish politicians Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag and said it could impose sanctions in September if Ankara fails to comply.

The Committee of Ministers decided on Thursday that “a document setting out the possible options” for sanctions should be prepared for discussion at the committee’s meeting in September.

The measures include the expulsion of Turkey from the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation.

The committee emphasised that the detention of Kavala lacked any reasonable grounds and called for his immediate release, as well as the release of Demirtas and Yuksekdag, former co-chairs of pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, HDP.

“[Kavala’s] detention pursued the ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate,” the committee said.

Kavala, Demirtas and Yuksekdag have been in prison for several years despite decisions in their favour at the European Court of Human Rights. Turkey has so far dismissed all the decisions.

A Turkish court sentenced Kavala to life in prison for attempting to overthrow the government by financing the 2013 Gezi Park protests, a series of nationwide demonstrations against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist government.

Demirtas and Yuksekdag have been in prison for more than six years due to alleged terrorism ties and has not been released despite various rulings from the European Court of Human Rights and the Turkish Constitutional Court.

President Erdogan and his party won both parliamentary and presidential elections last month.

Experts have expressed concerns that the strongman leader who has already been ruling the country for 21 years will intensify his crackdown on his opponents during his next five years in office.

Source: Balkan Insight