Appeals court approves release of pro-Kurdish leader Demirtaş

An appeals court in Ankara on Tuesday approved a lower court’s ruling for the release of the imprisoned former leader of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, left-wing Turkish newspaper BirGün reported.

Demirtaş has been in prison since November 2016 on charges of membership to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed organisation engaged in a conflict with Turkey for over three decades that has been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and the United States.

On September 2, an Ankara court ordered the conditional release of the top pro-Kurdish politician, however, Demirtaş remained in prison due to a previously-approved sentence of four years and eight months.

According to Ramazan Demir, one of Demirtaş’s lawyers, Demirtaş could have been released on parole considering his time served. His lawyers are preparing to submit a request for parole.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in November 2018 demanded Demirtaş’s release, stating that the extension of his detention throughout two crucial elections had been designed to stifle pluralism and limit political debate.

A hearing will be held at the ECHR Grand Chamber on September 18 to resolve objections to the ruling.

HDP lawmaker and lawyer Meral Danış Beştaş said that the Turkish court’s approval of the ruling for Demirtaş’s release constitutes a precedent for all imprisoned politicians, including Demirtaş’s counterpart, former HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ, who was arrested alongside him.