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Former lawmaker from pro-Kurdish HDP released after top court ruling

Former MP for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Sirri Sureyya Onder has been released by an Istanbul court following a Constitutional Court (AYM) ruling in his favor, Sozcu daily reported on Friday.

Istanbul 26th Heavy Penal Court ruled to release Onder on Friday, a day after the AYM concluded in its verdict on the case that the politician’s conviction for speeches he made in 2013 was a violation of his right to freedom of expression.

Onder, who was released around 5 pm local time on Friday was welcomed by his daughter Ceren Onder and some MPs that include main opposition’s Sezgin Tanrıkulu at the gate of the Kandıra F Type Prison in the northwestern Kocaeli province.

“Normally, a person should be happy in times like these. But a part of us [HDP] is always behind bars. We can really feel joyful only when this country [Turkey] takes a step toward full-scale democratization and peace,” Can Ozcelik from Sozcu on Friday quoted the former MP as saying.

Nearly a dozen lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish party are still in prison pending trial due to being charged with terror-related offenses after their parliamentary immunity was lifted in May 2016.

Referring to his 2013 speech that led to his conviction Onder added: “We said our word, after all, we have always done so. Nothing can stop us from saying our word. Because we said what we believed in.”

“I find it very valuable that the Constitutional Court gave its verdict unanimously. I hope that it will set a precedent for other trials,” the former pro-Kurdish lawmaker further underlined.

Ramazan Demir, a lawyer representing the former lawmaker earlier on Friday told Serkan Alan from the Gazete Duvar news portal that the release of the politician a day after the AYM decision and not immediately afterward was the court’s attempt to resist implementing the verdict.

“I guess they [court judges] think the later, the better. They knew about the verdict since yesterday but did everything they could to slow down the process. They should have released him immediately after the [AYM] decision,” Demir explained.

Another one of Onder’s lawyers, Benan Molu, underlined in a tweet on Friday that delaying the politician’s release was another right violation for him.

HDP’s Onder in September 2018 was sentenced to three years and six months in prison on a charge of making propaganda for an armed terror organization through his Newroz speech in 2013. He has been serving his sentence since December 2018.

According to a report by Gokcer Tahincioglu from the T24 news portal, AYM on Friday said in its ruling that Onder was a key figure of the peace process and the words he used in his 2013 speech was, therefore, aimed to manage the process successfully until the end.

The peace process called the “solution process” that maintained a two-year-long ceasefire between the Turkish security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) came to an end in 2015.

Designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the outlawed PKK has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast region for more than three decades.

After the collapse of the peace process and the failed military coup attempt targeting the ruling AK Party (AKP) government, the Turkish judiciary has carried out a crackdown on the pro-Kurdish HDP, which they accuse of having links to the PKK.

Journalists under siege from Turkish courts – IPI report

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