Turkish court rejects  Kurdish politician Demirtaş’s appeal for release

A court in Turkish capital Ankara has rejected an appeal by jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş for his release due to the high risk to his life over the deadly coronavirus, his lawyer Muhsin Kahraman said on Saturday.

Demirtaş, who has been in prison since November 2016 over terrorism charges, had suffered a cardiac episode in December last year, and has other respiratory issues, both known to exacerbate the effects of the virus.

The Ankara court did not provide any reasons in its decision against the appeal, Kahraman said, rejecting any appeal of the decision on the grounds of the ruling “being in compliance with law and legal procedure.”

A 2018 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights ordered the immediate release of the popular former leader of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), but Demirtaş has remained in prison over alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for over three decades.

An amnesty bill recently passed in parliament allowing for the release of some 90,000 inmates from Turkey’s overcrowded prisons, as part of the country’s measures to stop the spread of the pandemic.

Among inmates to be released are mafia leaders, violent criminals and sex offenders, but the bill excludes terrorism charges, which will result in thousands of activists, students, academics, politicians, journalists, lawyers and others to remain in prison.

Human rights groups have called for the release of arbitrarily detained inmates, who often face charges over the criminalisation of what the Council of Europe Commissioner of Human Rights called “legitimate exercise of freedom of expression” in a 2018 article.