Turkish prosecutors issue arrest warrant to block release of former HDP leader Demirtaş

(Updated with news of Yüksekdağ's arrest warrant in third paragraph)

Turkish prosecutors have moved to block the release of Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), after a court ruled that he should be released.

Prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Demirtaş on Friday in relation to a wave of violence sparked in 2014 by demonstrations in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast. The HDP leader has already been acquitted of similar charges.

An arrest warrant has also been issued for Figen Yüksekdağ, who led the HDP alongside Demirtaş as the party's co-chair and was arrested at the same time, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Demirtaş was arrested in November 2016 and has been held since then on various charges related to his alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed group that has fought the Turkish state for Kurdish self-rule for decades.

The Kurdish leader is known in Turkey as a charismatic and well-regarded opposition figure. Many view his arrest as politically motivated. A Turkish court blocked a Nov. 20, 2018 ruling for Demirtaş’s release by the European Court of Human Rights by jailing him on separate charges of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.”

Demirtaş won an appeal launched by his lawyers to subtract the time he has already served in prison from the four-year-and-eight-month he is serving on those charges, which should mean his release.

However, the former HDP co-chair looks set to remain in prison due to the new arrest warrant issued for him.

“They’re trying to arrest Selahattin Demirtaş again for an allegation he has already been arrested and tried over three years for and for which he was ordered released last week,” Demirtaş’s lawyer, Ramazan Demir, said in a tweet.

“And they’re doing it on the day the ruling to offset time served from his sentence was announced and nothing stood in the way of his release. Just two days after the ECHR hearing (on Demirtaş),” said Demir.

The seventeen judges on ECHR’s Grand Chamber heard Demirtaş’s case in full on Wednesday. They are expected to announce a ruling on whether he has been imprisoned illegally for political motives in three to nine months.