Attorneys demand release of pro-Kurdish politician from Turkish prison

Lawyers representing Selahattin Demirtas, ex-leader of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have applied for his release from jail following a court decision that he be freed from pre-trial detention over terror charges, Reuters reported citing an HDP source on Wednesday.

Last week the Ankara 19th High Criminal Court ruled unanimously that Demirtas who has been in prison since November 2016, was eligible to be set free from pre-trial detention since his defense had been completed.

The politician faces several cases mainly on terror-related charges and prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of up to 142 years within the scope of the main case against him.

However, Demirtas remains incarcerated despite the court’s decision. This is due to him having been sentenced to four years and eight months in jail last September.

In December 2018 the former pro-Kurdish leader was sentenced for what the state calls making terrorist propaganda in his comments during a speech he gave in 2013. This is the sentence hampering his release.

According to an HDP source, Demirtas’ lawyers on Wednesday applied for the three years he has spent in jail to be discounted from his existing sentence, a move that could make him eligible to be released on parole.

Holding forth that the politician’s detention has gone longer than could be justified, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) last November urged Turkey to process his legal case swiftly.

However, an appeal for his release was rejected by a local court soon after the ECHR’s order.

A hearing will be held at the ECHR Grand Chamber on September 18 and the court will hear the appeals of both Demirtas and the Turkish government concerning the ongoing detention of the politician despite the ECHR’s ruling that he be released immediately.

Although the HDP denies such connections, Turkey’s ruling AK Party (AKP) blames the pro-Kurdish party for having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist organization by the Turkish state, the United States and the European Union.

PKK is an armed group that has waged a decades-long separatist insurgency in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast.

Increasing its crackdown on HDP since the collapse of a peace process between the Turkish state and the outlawed PKK in 2015, the governing AKP last month replaced three mayors from the party in Turkey’s southeast with state-appointed officials as part of a major terror investigation.

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