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European Court of Human Rights website targeted by Turkish hackers

The website of the European Court of Human Rights was hacked by a Turkish hacker group called Anka Neferler Tim soon after it ordered the release of a pro-Kurdish politician who was jailed in 2016 on terrorism charges.

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights ordered in a near-unanimous verdict the immediate release from prison of Selahattin Demirtaş, a prominent Turkish politician who is a co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi).

Demirtaş’ party secured more than five million votes in the 2015 presidential elections and was constantly targeted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party which alleged the HDP provided silent support to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which was responsible for a deadly attack on the same year that killed sixteen Turkish troops.

In 2016, the Turkish government lifted Demirtaş’ parliamentary immunity and subjected him to prolonged pre-trial detention before bringing criminal proceedings against him for terrorism-related offences. By doing so, the government prevented him from actively participating in the referendum of April 2017 and the 2018 presidential election.

Considering that Demirtaş promised to work on a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question and also committed to recognising the Armenian genocide if elected, these statements may also have worked against him and other members of the HDP. In 2018, he was sentenced to four years and eight months for a fiery speech he delivered in March 2013.

The European Court of Human Rights observed that by subjecting Demirtaş to pre-trial detention as well as by accusing him of terrorism-related offences, the Turkish government “pursued the ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate, which was at the very core of the concept of a democratic society.”

The court said that “none of the decisions on the applicant’s initial and continued pre-trial detention contained evidence that could indicate a clear link between his actions – his political speeches and participation in certain lawful meetings – and the terrorism-related offences for which he had been detained.”

Aside from ordering Demirtaş’ immediate release from prison, the European Court of Human Rights also ordered Turkey to pay €25,000 in non-pecuniary damage, €31,900 in costs and expenses, and €3,500 in pecuniary damage.

On Wednesday, the court said in a press release that its website was the subject of a large-scale cyber attack which rendered it inaccessible. Here is the complete statement:

Following the delivery of the Selahattin Demirtas v. Turkey (No. 2) judgment on December 22, the website of the European Court of Human Rights was the subject of a large-scale cyberattack which has made it temporarily inaccessible. The Court strongly deplores this serious incident. The competent services are currently making every effort to remedy the situation as soon as possible.

A Turkish hacker group called Anka Neferler Tim has claimed responsibility for the cyber attack via its social media channels and has demanded that the European Court of Human Rights must apologise for delivering the verdict.

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